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Stage Raw: The Civilians to do L.A. Porno

Stage Raw: The Civilians to do L.A. Porno
The latest NEW REVIEWS are embedded in this week's COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS

Also, this week's STAGE FEATURE on two plays set beyond the end of the word: Henry Murray's Treefall and Eugene Ionesco's The Chairs

FRANZ SCHUBERT: HIS LETTERS AND MUSIC continues this weekend at the Odyssey Theatre.
Stage Raw: The Civilians to do L.A. Porno

Jeff Marlow and Julia Migenes. Photo by Ron Sossi

PORN CITY

That would be us. The San Fernando Valley, to be precise. The Civilians' Artistic Director Steve Cosson (This Beautiful City), composer Michael Friedman (This Beautiful City," Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) and book writer Bess Wohl (Cats Talk Back, In) have "begun investigations in Los Angeles for an untitled porn musical." (I'll bet they have.)   The new project has been commissioned by Center Theatre Group, which presented The Civilians' This Beautiful City at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2008.

This musical is being developed under Center Theatre Group's New Play Production Program (NPPP), a laboratory to create new work. Am I dreaming or didn't they boot a handful of new works labs out of the building a few years back? Yet NPPP is described as "a unique and comprehensive new initiative which ensures that a variety of vibrant new theatrical work is produced on CTG's three stages - the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum and the Kirk Douglas Theatre." The difference appears to be that  Gordon Davidson's labs-of-yore were playwright-based and designed to send new work into further development around the country, whereas Michael Ritchie's NPPP is working with established companies and is commissioning works piecemeal. 

No title of production date has been set for The Civilians porn musical.

For the LATEST NEW REVIEWS embedded within this week's COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS, press the Continue Reading tab directly below.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for August 7 - 13, 2009

(The weekend's NEW REVIEWS are embedded in "Continuing Performances"

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

computer's search program.)

Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Martin Hernandez,

Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson,

Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver.

These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas

OPENING THIS WEEK

ADELINE'S PLAY Kit Steinkellner's play about "creating theatre

during the Great Depression.". Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St.,

Santa Monica; opens Aug. 13; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 5,

www.latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.

BREAKING AND ENTERING Colin Mitchell's dark comedy about a reclusive

legendary author and a fan with a manuscript. Theatre 40 at the Reuben

Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; opens Aug. 12;

Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 6. (310) 364-0535.

CLOSER THAN EVER Lodestone Theatre Ensemble presents an

all-Asian-American revival of Richard Maltby Jr.'s musical revue. GTC

Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; opens Aug. 8; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (323) 993-7245.

CONTEMPORARY CONSTRUCTIONS Shara Kane's depression poem 4.48 Psychosis and David Ives' absurdist comedy All in the Timing.

(In rep, call for schedule.). Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd.,

North Hollywood; opens Aug. 7; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru

Aug. 30. (818) 849-4039.

CROSSING THE BRIDGE LEONIX ensemble's comedic melodrama about death

in America. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Aug. 7-8, 8 p.m.;

Sun., Aug. 9, 3 & 7 p.m.. (818) 618-4772.

EL VERDE: VIVA LA FRITA! Superhero El Verde battles "surrealist

villain" Frita Kahlo, in Anthony Aguilar's episodic comedy. Casa 0101,

2009 E. First St., L.A.; opens Aug. 7; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;

thru Aug. 30. (323) 263-7684.

GETTING OUT Marsha Norman's story of a mixed-up girl just released

from prison. Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; opens

Aug. 7; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 20,

www.lyrichyperion.com...

THE GOLDDIGGERS Six of the original Dean Martin "Golddiggers"

reunite after 40 years. With comedians Ronnie Sperling and Jerry Hauck.

El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., Aug.

7, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 8, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 9, 3 p.m.. (818)

508-0281.

HERRINGBONE Vaudeville musical starring B.D. Wong as a tap-dancing

8-year-old. Book by Tom Cone, music by Skip Kennon, lyrics by Ellen

Fitzhugh. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla;

opens Aug. 7; Aug. 7-8, 8 p.m.; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8

p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (858)

550-1010.

HORROR-FEST Zombie Joe's Underground presents four horrific short plays, all new: Growing; A Lesson Learned; End of the Road; Procession of Devils. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Aug. 7; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (818) 202-4120.

THE LAST 5 YEARS Jason Robert Brown's musical romance. Warner Grand

Theatre, 478 W. Sixth St., San Pedro; opens Aug. 7; Fri.-Sat..; thru

Aug. 23. (310) 548-7672.

LIFE COULD BE A DREAM Writer-director Roger Bean gives a banned boy band the Marvelous Wonderettes

treatment. Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

opens Aug. 7; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru Sept. 27, www.plays411.com/life. (323) 960-4412.

MANISH BOY Comedian Ralph Harris returns home via his one-man show.

Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens Aug. 12; Wed.,

8 p.m.; thru Oct. 7. (323) 960-1056.

THE SEXUAL NEUROSES OF OUR PARENTS Developmentally disabled girl

discovers her sexuality, by Lukas Barfuss. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San

Fernando Road, Glendale; opens Aug. 7; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 22,

www.itsmyseat.com. (818) 500-7200.

SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER Free public performance of Oliver Goldsmith's

comedy, courtesy Culver City Public Theatre. Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial

Park, Motor Ave. & Braddock Dr., Culver City; opens Aug. 8;

Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 23, www.ccpt.org. (310) 712-5482.

SUMMER CAMP: ONE-UPS! Solo shows by Jaime Andrews, Terry Tocantins

and Richard Levinson. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr.,

L.A.; Aug. 7-9, 9 p.m.. (310) 281-8337.

TALES OF AN UNSETTLED CITY: REVELATIONS Third chapter of Theatre

Unleashed's collection of late-night vignettes. Sherry Theatre, 11052

Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Aug. 8; Sat., 10:15 p.m.; thru

Aug. 30.

WEIRD ON TOP Improv comedy, indistinguishable by press release.

Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village;

Thurs., Aug. 13, 8 p.m.; Wed., Sept. 16, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Oct. 15, 8

p.m.; Thurs., Nov. 19, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Dec. 10, 8 p.m.. (818) 508-3003.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

GO THE CHERRY ORCHARD In 1950, writer-director Josh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

production skewers the characters for their vanity, folly and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.theatricum.com.

CROWNS This musical by Regina Taylor examines the passionate

attachment of certain churchgoing African-American women for their

hats. Adapted from the book by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry,

Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, it turns on the

interaction between Yolanda (Angela Wildflower Polk), a tough street

girl from Brooklyn raging with grief over the murder of her brother,

and various women she encounters after she's shipped off to South

Carolina to live with her grandmother (Paula Kelly). The book that was

the musical's source material consists of an elegant collection of

photo portraits and firsthand reminiscences; Taylor appropriates these

as monologues, then juxtaposes them with original dialogue and gospel

hymns. The thrust of the show -- increasingly churchly as the evening

wears on -- is the effort to educate Yolanda regarding the importance

of hats to her identity and her spirituality. Under Israel Hicks'

direction, the focus is clear but its execution -- both script and

performance -- is disappointing. Five female performers each deliver

various monologues that simply don't add up to recognizable characters

who serve the story -- itself a cobbled construct. Lackluster

choreography, less than top-notch vocals and indifferent lighting also

detract, as does the production's two-hour length, without

intermission. The strongest element is the outstanding contribution of

Clinton Derricks-Carroll in a variety of male roles, but especially as

a fervently possessed, pulpit-thumping preacher. In an uneven ensemble,

Vanessa Bell Calloway and Suzzanne Douglas are worthy of note, as are

the instrumentals, under Eric Scott Reed's musical direction. (DK)

Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 16. (626)

356-PLAY. An Ebony Repertory Theatre/Pasadena Playhouse production.

GO CYMBELINE What might Shakespeare have written if

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

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

extravagantly plotted comedy like this one, with story ideas snatched

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

alleged infidelity. Her wanderings eventually land her on the doorstep

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

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

own. Director Ellen Geer has fashioned an appealing production laced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 27. (310) 455-3723.

GO FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Following hard on the

ruby-encrusted heels of Broadway's greatest 21st century's phenom

Wicked, the Pantages returns to this equally significant Broadway hit

from the middle of the last century (nearly a decade as longest running

musical) in a spectacular revival. Sholem Aleichem's tale of life in a

Jewish shtetl under the thumb of Russia's tzar, dramatized by Joseph

Stein with a glorious score and lyrics by Jerry Bock Sheldon Harnick

respectively, still generates laughs and other emotions. This

production remains loyal to Jerome Robbins' original staging, with

expertly recreated direction and choreography by Sammy Dallas Bayes.

You won't find any flying or other magical machinery expected in

contemporary Broadway fare. It feels like time-traveling 50 years back

- yet there's no sense of museum theater here. Leading way is, of

course Topol, the Israeli star who first played the lead tole of Tevye

on London's West End when he was far too young, then in the 1971 film

at the perfect age, now in this "final tour," when he is too old, but

still enormously effective as the faithful but constantly

God-questioning milkman who sees his Jewish traditions and way of life

falling apart. Upon Topol's first entrance he is greeted as a rock star

- but the production doesn't rest on his laurels alone; it earns its

standing ovation from the merits of the ensemble, musicians and

designers. (TP) Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood;

Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 9.

(213) 365-3500.

JULIUS CAESAR Shakespeare's tragedy. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum,

1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 29,

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

455-3723.

LOUIS & KEELY: LIVE AT THE SAHARA I haven't seen this musical

study of '50s lounge-act crooners Louis Prima and Keely Smith since its

transcendent premiere at Sacred Fools Theatre last year, and oh, is it

different. Documentary and Oscar-nominated film maker Taylor Hackford

has been busy misguiding writer-performers Jake Broder and Vanessa

Claire Smith's musical. Taylor took over from director Jeremy Aldridge,

who brought it to life in east Hollywood. Smith and Broder have drafted

an entirely new book, added onstage characters - including Frank

Sinatra (Nick Cagle) who, along with Broder and Smith, croons a ditty.

(As though Cagle can compete with Sinatra's voice, so embedded into the

pop culture.) They've also added Prima's mother (Erin Matthews) and

other people who populated the lives of the pair. The result is just a

little heartbreaking: The essence of what made it so rare at Sacred

Fools has been re-vamped and muddied into a comparatively generic bio

musical, like Stormy Weather(about Lena Horne) or Ella(about

Ella Fitzgerald). The good news is the terrific musicianship, the

musical direction originally by Dennis Kaye and now shared by Broder

and Paul Litteral, remains as sharp as ever, as are the title

performances. Broder's lunatic edge and Bobby Darin singing style has

huge appeal, while Vanessa Claire Smith has grown ever more comfortable

in the guise and vocal stylings of Keely Smith. It was the music that

originally sold this show, and should continue to do so. With luck,

perhaps Broder and Smith haven't thrown out their original script.

(SLM) Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 8

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

p.m.; through May 24. (310) 208-54545.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Shakespeare's romantic comedy. Will Geer

Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Thurs., 8

p.m.; thru Aug. 27. (310) 455-3723.

NEW REVIEW PICK   THE MISER

Stage Raw: The Civilians to do L.A. Porno

Photo by Miriam Geer

Director

Ellen Geer delivers a hilarious and highly polished production of

Moliere's  comedy. It's a faithful rendition, despite the fact that

she's garnished it with several original songs (written with Peter

Alsop), a dog, and some creative anachronisms: Neither cod-pieces nor

horn-rimmed glasses quite belong in 1668, but they prove capital

laugh-getters. The production's greatest asset is Alan Blumenfeld, who

delivers a wonderfully demented, larger-than-life performance as the

miser Harpagon, calling on the traditions of music-hall, vaudeville and

burlesque to create a portrait of monstrous greed and vanity. He's ably

assisted Mike Peebler as his rebellious, clothes-horse son Cleante,

Melora Marshall as the flamboyant match-maker/bawd Frosine, Ted Barton

as a choleric cook/coachman, and Mark Lewis as Cleante's sly, wily

side-kick, La Fleche.  As the young lovers, Peebler, Samara Frame, Chad

Jason Scheppner, and understudy Jennifer Schoch capture the requisite

romance, while lampooning the coincidences and shop-worn theatrical

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

lavish costumes, including Cleante's outrageous

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

cod-piece, are by Shon LeBlanc and Valentino's Costumes. Theatricum

Botanicum, 1419 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Topanga; thru September

27; in rep, call for schedule (310) 455-3723. (Neal Weaver)

MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT Monty Python and the Holy Grail-

the 1975 take on Arthurian legend -- is probably not the sharpest

sendup in comedians Eric Idle & Associates' body of film work,

compared to their later, blistering satire on Biblical lore contained

in The Life of Brian(1979) - Brian being Jesus - and on the existential quandaries in The Meaning of Life(1983). The Holy Grailnonetheless

contains what was for a generation of fans a blithely anarchistic and

singularly British response to a constipated culture. Idle and John Du

Prez's long-touring musical, Monty Python's Spamalot, is lifted mostly from The Holy Grailand

is at its best when filching dialogue from the movie, with performances

that replicate the dry wry humor of faulty assumptions taken to their

most idiotic conclusions. In the film, there's a plague sketch in which

the city corpse collectors go round with a cart calling, "Bring out

your dead." One ill fellow protests that he's "not dead yet," and that

in fact he's feeling better. This leads to bickering with the officials

until his owner bonks him on the head with a shovel, assuring that he

isdead. In the musical, that scene gets played out in a song called "I

Am Not Dead Yet," wherein the clout with the shovel occurs twice.

Evidently, the joke told once isn't sufficient. With that kind of

repetition throughout the musical, the film's brisk tone shifts from

the pinpoint sparks of standup comedy to the comparatively lumbering

reprises of musical theater, though there's a wonderful parody of

Andrew Lloyd Weber torch songs called "The Song That Goes Like This."

But the larger issue resides in the motives of creation. Monty Python

created comedy in reaction to, and as a comment on, the absurdities of

life in Britain, and beyond. In the musical, King Arthur (John

O'Hurley) seeks - in addition to the holy grail - a way to get onto

Broadway. So this is no longer a vicious comedy about the world, it's a

far gentler homage to Monty Python, filled with Sarah Palin jokes and

mock-Academy Awards. The idea has undergone a tectonic shift from being

pointedly silly to generally silly. These are really the aesthetics of

marketing. The result is far more popular than penetrating. The company

is unimpeachable, as is Casey Nicholaw's splendidly stupid choreography

and Tim Hatley's deliberately cheesy set and costumes. (SLM) Ahmanson

Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat. 2 p.m.;

Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through September 6. (213) 972-4400.

MY WAY: A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO FRANK SINATRA Singers croon Sinatra

tunes. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Sun., 2

p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 23.

(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 Aug. 29. (323) 666-4268.

NEW REVIEW GO NEW ORIGINAL WORKS FESTIVAL 2009

Stage Raw: The Civilians to do L.A. Porno

Photo by Steven Gunther

Program

Two of REDCAT's annual showcase of interdisciplinary performance works

weighs in as an evening of paradoxes -- both the exhilarating,

boundary-breaking kind and the more superciliously bewildering,

curatorial variety. The former is delivered via "N1" and its inspired

partnering of live-feed video artist Carole Kim and L.A.-based butoh

master Oguri, with musical support from avant-improvisationists Alex

Cline and Dan Clucas. Ostensibly a choreographic re-conception of the

Narcissus myth as a solo dance journey, "N1" is more properly a duet in

which the spiritual interiority and time-bending precision of Oguri's

butoh-derived physical vocabulary is captured by Kim's high-tech video

processing and then projected onto a cage-like set of layered scrims

and variously sized screens. The resulting spectacle both preserves the

intimacy and gestural tensions of the "live" dance even as it explodes

the subjectivity of the dancer in a dazzling, multi-dimensional, cubist

montage of varying scales, disorienting angles and points of view. The

narrative reaches it's violent climax in a tour de force sequence in

which a bloodied and battered Oguri seems to descend into an underworld

of menacing shadows only to dissolve in an eye-like pool of unblinking

light. Chris Kuhl's expressive, high-key lighting lends the proceedings

an atmospheric, appropriately film-noir flavor. If the technical

complexity and visionary aesthetics of "N1" could be compared to a game

of three-dimensional chess, then "Leop Year (No Jamming)," the

seven-song set by art-school rockers Jennifer The Leopard is the

evening's game of checkers. Vocalist Stephanie Hutin and bandmates

Lauren Fisher, Lana Kim and Marissa Mayer archly ironize '80s Brit-pop

and late-'70s No-Wave into a perniciously perky pop repertoire they

perform to self-referential comedy videos and an onstage posse of

prop-wielding friends. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; The festival

concludes with Program Three, Thurs., Aug. 6-Sat., Aug. 8, 8:30 p.m.

$18 with Program Three. (213) 237-2800. (Bill Raden)

THE

TEMPEST/HENRY V Many would argue that Shakespeare is not meant to be

experienced in a darkened proscenium house with fancy sets, a silent

audience and plush seating, but instead, with minimal lighting and

sets, a boisterous crowd, and no seating at all. Those who prefer the

latter will find this production of Shakespeare's final play to their

liking. The familiar story about the wronged former Duke of Milan, who

is banished to an island with his daughter. How he uses his powers of

sorcery to command the isle's faeries to exact revenge on his fellow

nobles is performed with traditional minimalism, as well as modern

commentary and humor. Director and company co-founder Melissa Chalsma

incorporates into the dialogue jokes about cell phones, Martha Stewart

and even the Barnsdall performance space. Continuing the modern

aesthetic are Daniel Mahler's costumes, which feature a blend of bubble

wrap, duct tape and other shiny bits for the faeries and Prospero's

cape, in styles ranging from Mafioso (Sebastian) and band geek

(Trinculo) to Charlie Chaplain (Stephano). The latter two work well for

the bawdy vaudevillian duo, who, along with Caliban, become the most

engaging part of the performance. What's gained in comedy, however, is

lost in the somber philosophical inquiry that comprises a significant

part of the text. A major reason for this is the setting, which, by

allowing food, drink and a "family atmosphere," also suffers from the

distraction of crying, talking children. While that atmosphere is good

for a summer community event, give me the darkened proscenium house for

this play. (Mayank Keshaviah). Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood

Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (323) 836-0288.

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.

GO ALTAR BOYZ For those over the age of 15, boy

bands have long been fodder for easy ridicule - stir in Christian rock

and malicious burlesque becomes ripe for the picking. But in this

outing by playwright Kevin Del Aguila with songwriters Gary Adler &

Michael Patrick Walker, derision is superseded by affection. The book

is so sweet and so gentle the lyrics that the show lacks a satisfying

satirical bite. But the good news is in the performances. Jesse

Bradley, Clifford Bañagale, Jake Wesley Stewart, Robert Acinapura and

Kelly Rice blend their disparate personalities, boyish charms and

harmonic voices to create an ensemble that could easily play it

straight for the right audiences. Choreographer Ameenah Kaplan takes

great advantage of the boys' uniform physical agility and athleticism,

creating song and dance numbers far more entertaining than the overdone

Catholic jokes. Musical director Christopher Lloyd Bratten and his band

(Adam Halitzka, Nick Perez and Carson Schutze) are totally in sync,

keeping the show bouncy and charming for 90 minutes. Michael Mullen's

too-precious rock costumes are terrific and amusing. Only the imminent

threat of forced audience participation slightly dulls the glister.

(TP) Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (323) 957-1884.

AS YOU LIKE IT Shakespeare's comedy, re-set in the 1980s San Fernando Valley. (In rep with Snoopy: The Musical;

call for schedule.). Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (323) 667-0955.

BABY IT'S YOU! American Pop Anthology presents Colin Escott and

Floyd Mutrux's musical biography of Scepter Records founder Florence

Greenberg., www.babyitsyouthemusical.com. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa

Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 &

8 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (800) 595-4TIX.

GO BIG BRO/LIL BRO In playwright Jonathan

Ceniceroz's torn-between-two-lovers potboiler, a wannabe actor named

Carlos (Vince Tula) leaves his mature and ailing partner to set up

house with a coquettish young gent from his acting class. The wallowing

melodrama commences with Carlos resolutely packing his bags, deaf to

the incessant pleas of wheelchair-bound Gil (Art McDermott). We next

see him in his new digs, in thrall to the alluring Jeremy (understudy

David Padilla), whose clothes he's possessively concealed in a power

play seemingly intended to proscribe his new boyfriend's coming and

goings. Directed by Josh Chambers, the stilted first act unwinds with a

rather depthless display of passions, as the financially pressed Carlos

struggles to support his increasingly sulky and demanding inamorato.

Act 2 improves, however, first because the script acquires some

texture, as Jeremy evolves into a narcissistic psychopath, but more so

because Padilla -- in his debut stage performance -- makes the most of

the material to establish a beguilingly ominous presence. McDermott is

persuasive as the catty but perspicacious invalid. To the playwright's

credit, the drama ultimately detours from a sensationalized denouement

into one more sensible and satisfying. (Deborah Klugman ). Company of

Angels, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

thru Aug. 7, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/70572. (323) 883-1717.

CABARET THE MUSICAL The economy is terrible; unemployment is rising;

sex and promiscuity abound; traditions are constantly broken, creating

backlash from social conservatives -- of course, it's Germany in the

early 1930s. Against the backdrop of the Weimar Republic, Kander and

Ebb's 1966 classic musical follows American novelist Clifford Bradshaw

(Michael Bernardi) through his affair with English singer Sally Bowles

(Kalinda Gray), whom he meets in Berlin at the Kit Kat Klub as the

Nazis are taking over. At the top of the show, the iconic "Willkommen"

introduces the club and its dancers -- the Kit Kat Girls and Boys -- as

well as the Emcee (Eduardo Enrikez), whose outrageous persona is a dead

ringer for Joel Grey's 1972 Oscar-winning performance in Bob Fosse's

movie. When not at the cabaret, Cliff stays in a boarding house run by

Fraulein Schneider (Annalisa Erickson), who has a soft corner for local

fruit vendor Herr Shultz (Jayson Kraid) and constantly battles with

tenant Fraulein Kost (Josie Yount) over the stream of sailors who flow

through Kost's bedroom in order to help "pay the rent." Cliff, on the

other hand, pays the rent by giving English lessons. Director Judy

Norton's use of table seating and a working bar completes the cabaret

ambiance, but her transitions drag and she fails to bring out the je ne

sais quoi -- or perhaps ich weiss nicht -- that would have made the

brilliant source material leap off the stage. Even Greg Hakke's musical

direction is sluggish at times and Derrick McDaniel's lighting leaves

many dark spots onstage. The performances, unlike the German accents,

are solid, but only Enrikez really stands out. (MK) MET Theater; 1089

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

August 9. (323) 965-9996. www.plays411.com/cabaret. (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO CARVED IN STONE In Jeffrey Hartgraves' comedy, it's

always cocktail hour in the afterlife lounge shared by Truman Capote

(Kevin Remington), Quentin Crisp (Leon Acord), Oscar Wilde (Jesse

Merlin) and Tennessee Williams (Curt Bonnem). Witty aphorisms fly fast

and furious, as each writer tries for the perfect bon mot to top the

others. Into this literary hothouse stumbles Gryphon Tott (Levi

Damione), who can't believe he's dead. He's further perplexed by the

denizens of the lounge because he's heterosexual. The other writers

explain that he's a gay icon, which has brought him to their cozy

setting. They add that the door though which he entered occasionally

opens, but the four literary heavy heavyweights have no desire to move

on. Judy Garland and Bette Davis (both played by Amanda Abel) make a

brief appearance, and leave just as suddenly. William Shakespeare (Alex

Egan) stays around for a while longer to much hectoring from the lounge

habitués. Tott's status as a gay icon unfolds slowly ― he borrowed

background scenery from a gay writer, bringing up the question of

plagiarism. The cast is superb under the fast-moving direction of John

Pabros Clark, and the pacing and timing are remarkable. (SR) Theatre

Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;

Tues., 8 p.m.; through Sept. 5. www.carvedinstonetheplay.com. (310)

473-5483.

CHARIOT It is 1987 and the Hills are the only black family in a tidy

but sterile suburb of the San Fernando Valley. In a too-successful

attempt at assimilation, the family members have repressed nearly every

emotional and spiritual problem that comes their way. In Steven Lee's

everything-including-the-kitchen-sink melodrama, Grandmother (Gayle La

Rone) arrives from the South in her chariot (an expensive sports car)

to spread her wealth and shake the family loose from its self-loathing

and hypocrisy. Lee's script gives each of the generally solid actors

enormous scene-chewing speeches, and director Cary Thompson encourages

high-powered performances, which never let up and, unfortunately, too

often turn to screaming matches and chest-pounding. Lee's exhaustive

list of dramatic issues centers on homosexuality, psychosis, religious

rejection, alcoholism and violence. Near the end we wonder why he left

out incest -- oh, never mind we get to that, too. Thomas (TJ) Walker

provides an array of terrific costumes, which offer the visual cues not

found in the simple set pieces that create the modest suburban home.

(Tom Provenzano). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 6. (323) 960-7788.

GO COMING HOME A sequel to his 1995 postapartheid

play, Valley Song, Athol Fugard's latest work, Coming Home, tells of

the decimation of one person's dream and the recasting of hope from its

ashes. The luminous Deidrie Henry portrays Veronica, a once-aspiring

singer who returns to her rural childhood home, child in hand, after 10

bitterly disappointing and difficult years in Cape Town. Resilient and

nurturing despite her anguish, Veronica has a single-minded purpose: to

establish a home for her son ­Mannetjie (Timothy Taylor and then by

Matthew Elam as he ages), who will need support and protection in the

event of her demise from AIDS. With her beloved grandfather, her only

relative, dead, she turns for help to her childhood friend Alfred

(Thomas Silcott), a sweet, slow-minded man who has always loved her

dearly but whom her son despises. Spanning five years, the story

depicts Veronica's transformation from a buoyant woman to a sick but

seething, determined molder of her son's future to, finally, a

bedridden invalid, yet with enough energy to foster her boy's

burgeoning ambition to write. Part of Fugard's ongoing reflection of

his native country's woes, the play contains sometimes burdensome

exposition, which is offset by its masterfully drawn characters and

deeply embedded humor. Under Stephen Sachs' direction, Henry shines,

while Silcott is equally outstanding. As Mannetjie, whom we watch

evolving into manhood, Taylor and especially Elam both impress;

Adolphus Ward skillfully fashions the ghost of Veronica's grandfather.

(DK) Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (No perf July 4.) (323) 663-1525.

GO THE DEBATE OVER COURTNEY O'CONNELL OF COLUMBUS,

NEBRASKA If we're to believe playwright Mat Smart, which is probably

not a good idea, the bloody rampage of a jealous lover in 1894

Columbus, Nebraska led to the "Morgan Morality Act," stipulating that

if a woman chose a fiancée over the objections of a former lover who

had taken her virginity, her first lover was entitled to challenge her

fiancée in a public debate, sort of like a cross between The Dating

Game and The Jerry Springer Show. After hearing argumentation from both

parties, the woman was free to choose her future mate. If the woman

continued to rebuke the challenger, the law forbade him to contact her

or to mention her name in public. This anti-stalking bill placed

profound confidence in the power of debate in general, and

argumentation in particular, to prevent corpses from piling up, as they

evidently did in 1894 Nebraska, at least according to the record cited

in Smart's play. In Act 1 of his delightful comedy, set in a

contemporary Nebraska tavern - here portrayed in the site-specific

environs of downtown's Metropol Cafe -- Smart is really grappling with

the intersection of commitment and ownership. Jeff Galfer, who

originated the role at New York's Slant Theatre Project, is both

horrifying and endearing as Scott P. Scooner, a snazzily dressed local

denizen whose dream of making it big consists of landing the assistant

manager post at the suit shop where he now works as a sales clerk.

Scott is a romantic extrovert with a history of suicide attempts over

the loss of his love, Courtney (Amy Ellenberger, nicely capturing an

emotional descent after floating on air) to a six-figure-salary-earning

"dickwad from Sacramento" named James Alexander (Larry Heron, in a

suave and smart performance). Courtney's been dating James for two

months (compared to her five-year courtship with Scott). During the

debate, James offers her a vacation in the Bahamas that only makes her

swoon some more, as Scott must endure the site of his ex embracing and

kissing his competitor while he's trying to win her back. Thomas

(Feodor Chin) gently moderates the debate in a performance of wry

intelligence and absurdity, clutching a handbook of the law that

stipulates time limits and other protocol for the growingly ludicrous

spectacle. After both suitors' presentations, Courtney finds herself

paralyzed by indecision, which is when the law's more arcane articles,

such as a corn-shucking competition, come into play. Act 2 flies back

in time to 1894 and tracks the origins of this "morality act" via a

farce with the actors in drag and impressive quick-changes. It's a

different play in a different style that presents more of a challenge

to the actors than the real-time naturalism of Act 1. It nonetheless

tracks the origins of our so-called freedom, and how incapable we are

of handing the responsibilities that come with it. Despite the

shortcomings of the farce, Jennifer Chang stages the event, and it is

an event, with a nimble touch, and Rachel Schachar's costumes are

perfect. (SLM) Metropol Cafe, 923 East Third Street, downtown;

Sun.-Mon., 8 p.m.; through Aug. 24. (800) 838-3006 or

http://brownpapertickets.com A Chalk Repertory Theatre production.

DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD Bert V. Royal puts

the Peanuts gang in high school dealing with sex, drugs, violence and

homophobia. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (877) 620-7673.

NEW REVIEW DON'T FORGET TO REMEMBER

Stage Raw: The Civilians to do L.A. Porno

Photo by Ed Krieger

The

title of Patricia Parker's play is a line from a poem by Andrew Baker

(Shelly Kurtz), written to remind himself to hold onto his memories as

he faces the encroachment of Alzheimer 's disease. His life is made

still harder by the fact that his wife Dolores (Trudy Forbes) is a

rigid, conservative Catholic, with a knack for denying anything in life

that might be upsetting. She turns against their daughter Sarah (Lisa

Clifton) when she learns the girl is a lesbian, and when Sarah decides

to marry her female lover, she attempts to drive her out of the house.

Her denial goes into high gear when Andrew makes her promise to help

him kill himself when he starts to seriously lose his faculties. Parker

is an earnest and sincere writer, but her play prolongs the agony till

it grows turgid and melodramatic, despite the fine efforts of a capable

cast and Kiff Scholl's mostly excellent direction. (His handling of the

scenes is fine, but the "expressionist" pantomime between scenes is

more confusing than helpful.) Set designer Davis Campbell makes

handsome and clever use of the small space. The Lounge Theatre, 6201

Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.,

thru September 6. (323) 960-7780 or www.Plays411.com/remember (Neal

Weaver)

FERNANDO

Art scholar versus curator, by Steven Charles Haworth. Part of Open

Fist Theatre Company's First Look Festival of New Plays. Open Fist

Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Through Aug. 7, 8 p.m.; Sat.,

Aug. 15, 3 & 7 p.m.. (323) 882-6912.

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

NEW REVIEW GOLIATH During the Israeli pullout from Gaza

in 2005, the Israeli soldiers, displaced settlers and incoming

Palestinians could agree on one thing -- each claimed to be defending

their people against a bully. Everyone is David, but no one cops to

being Goliath, begging the question: Does Goliath exist, and if so,

would he recognize himself? In this heavy-handed parable, we have

Gittel (Laura Flanangan) and her teenage son David (Wyatt Fenner), whom

she conceived in Manhattan and raised Jewish Orthodox in the Gaza Strip

in an effort to distance themselves from her own misspent youth. Gittel

raises tulips, a metaphor of desert life that escapes no one. Her

flower business is so lucrative, she's made quasi-legal arrangements to

leave it to her Palestinian employee Ayat (Anna Khaja) in the face of

the Israeli government's decision to relocate Jewish settlements away

from Gaza. David has all the usual acting-out issues plus a savior

complex, bloodlust, and an excitement that the pending eviction of his

family will give him cause to start an uprising. His closest enemies

are the Israeli soldiers in charge of relocation, Yair (Richard Knolla)

and Michal (Ayana Hampton), even though they're trying to position

themselves as his friends. They even brought a pet carrier for his dog

(though the creature died months ago). Karen Hartman's play is meant to

be fair to all sides, and it often is, but young David is so

increasingly psychotic that we lose tolerance for him being treated

with tolerance; the audience is far more hostile to his cause than are

the characters in the play - even Yair when David threatens the Israeli

soldier with castration. Under Marya Mazor's direction, the play feels

fundamentally disconnected from reality. These five characters are so

devoted to their arguments -- all phrased in identical mock-Biblical

poetics -- that they're slow to react to dramas happening five feet

away. The inadvertent but oddly appropriate result is the depiction of

an inert myopia that suffocates the kind of reason and mediation that

might lead to actual progress. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica

Blvd., Hollywood; Sat., Aug. 8, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 9, 3 p.m.;

Thurs., Aug. 13, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 16, 3 p.m..

(323) 882-6912. (Amy Nicholson)

GROUNDLINGS

SPACE CAMP All-new sketch and improv, directed by Mikey Day. No barfing

allowed. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru Oct. 3. (323) 934-9700.

NEW REVIEW GO A HATFUL OF RAIN

Stage Raw: The Civilians to do L.A. Porno

Photo by Ed Krieger

Directed

by Dean Kreyling in a lively revival, Michael Gazzo's play centers on

the issue of morphine addiction. Johnny (a ghostly Chris Devlin) is a

returning Korean War vet who got hooked while hospitalized. (The play

is double-cast). He's been successfully hiding his addiction from his

wife Celia (Tania Gonzalez) and from his father (Joseph Cardinale) --

but not from his brother Polo (Gad Erel), who's paid off his dealers

before. This time Johnny is in debt $800. His dealers drop by with an

ultimatum: pay the money or wind up in the hospital. Jonesing for his

next fix, Johnny takes a gun in search of the money, staying out all

night to no avail. When the hoods arrive the next day, Polo agrees to

sell his car to cover Johnny's debt. But who will bail Johnny out the

next time? The drug dealers are a colorful, menacing crew: Mother

(Jeremy Radin), Apples (James Lyons) and Church (Aaron Leddick). Radin

engages in some very funny stage business, and while he may steal some

scenes, it's Erel who nearly walks away with the entire production.

This actor exudes chrarisma and raw sexuality. Cardinale puts in a

nuanced turn as the vitriolic patriarch. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N.

Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 23,

www.katselastheatre.org. (310) 358-9936. A Katselas Theatre Company

production (Sandra Ross)

GO

HELLZ KITCHEN ABLAZE Tommy Carter's hard-hitting drama delves into the

sadly familiar terrain of police brutality and corruption. After a drug

raid in which a team member was shot and killed, a clique of New York

City's finest rendezvous in an abandoned, graffiti pocked warehouse,

ostensibly to commiserate about their dead partner. Robert Mangiardi,

Michael Camacho, Sal Landi, Phil Parolisi, Charles Taylor and Gary

Werntz turn in harrowing performances as gritty, street wise narcotics

officers whose psychological and emotional black holes are nothing

short of terrifying. It isn't long after the team assembles that the

real reason for the "party" emerges, and we learn that a bond has been

made to split nearly a million dollars in confiscated drug money, which

is to be retrieved by this gang in blue's only black member, Dash (Tim

Starks). It's while waiting for the payoff to arrive that a toxic stew

of racism, fear, suspicion, paranoia and undiluted greed start to erode

alliances causing insurmountable conflicts that culminate in crushing

betrayals and murder. In addition to chillingly realistic characters,

Carter's blunt writing and gallows humor propel this 90-minute drama,

which in spite of its dearth of action is never boring or tedious. And

director Barry Sattels and his cast excel in opening up the explosive

tension of the plot. (LE3) Pan Andreas Theatre, 5125 Melrose Ave. L.A.;

Thur.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (213) 712-5021.

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

GO KILL ME DEADLY Few literary figures seem as

blatantly ripe for satire as the gumshoe detective. Playwright Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

seductive debutantes. Obstacles confront Charlie everywhere ― his

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

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

ignores. Savvily staged by director Kiff Scholl (with fight

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

script successfully parodies the genre's multiple clichés and evocative

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

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

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

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

an eyewitness to her murder and Ezra Buzzington as her suspiciously

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

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

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

Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through Aug 30.

(323) 856-8611.

GO THE NUCLEAR FAMILY As they've been doing since

2007, the company of three actors (Stephen Guarino, Jimmy Ray Bennett

and John Gregorio), and pianist Matthew Loren Cohen, staggered through

on wit and a prayer to create a 90-minute musical theater piece

off-the-cuff, sprung from the core characters of a generic American

family: Mom, Dad and Daughter (some nights it's Son). The piece and

even the characters' names are different every night, thanks to the

unpredictability of audience suggestions, and the trio play different

roles at each performance. Every show, however, starts in the "kitchen"

- four wooden chairs, two with broken cross-beams - and spirals in and

out of control from there, spinning the dual mythologies of The

American Family and The American Musical around and around on a spit.

It's ribald, insane, and great fun. (SLM) Meta Theatre, 7801 Melrose

Ave., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sun. 8 p.m.; through August 9.

http://needtheater.org A NeedTheatre production

OCTOMOM! THE MUSICAL Chicago has gritty realism. New York has

Broadway musicals. So what's the L.A. aesthetic? I've heard complaints

- I think they were sneers - that L.A. has no unifying theater style,

just like it has no unifying geography. Not true: camp. You see more

parody of stupid movies, stupid TV shows and stupid people on the

stages  of L.A. than any other genre - even more than one-person

showcases for TV. The latest example is this quite charming,

clever-in-parts (the eight kids are sock puppets) and terribly

over-hyped (preview coverage on Fox TV and in People Magazine) cabaret

about thoughtless and relentless greed, which is probably to our era

what religious hypocrisy was to Moliere's. Writer-director Chris

Votaire's theatrical comic book, with witty, light music by Rachel

Lawrence, interlinks the voracious appetites of Nadya Suleman (the

excellent Molly McCook) and Bernie Madoff (John Combs, also fine). It

suffers somewhat from the plight of trying to be on top of the news

with topics that were in the news cycle a few months ago. But the

underlying source of the satire that Voltaire is gunning for certainly

hasn't gone anywhere. The insights are broad as a barn. Madoff meets

that schemer Ponzi (Blake Hogue, with a keen expression of derangement

that works for number of cameos) in a sweet soft-shoe number. It could

be in the style of Tom Lehrer, but this is more obvious and less sly.

The production's strength lies in Dean McFlicker's musical staging, and

the actors' terrific movement skills - particularly that of Dinora

Walcott, the crooning emcee. Oh, but the thin voices bring it down. As

though this stuff is easy, as though a musical can be without the

triple threat of acting, dancing and singing. With the threadbare

canned accompaniment, we're missing about a third of the musical-comedy

trinity in those whispy voices, sometimes out of key. Not so for

McCook's Octomom, beautifully peevish, whining and with a sense of

entitlement as bloated as her belly. She carries the show, in tune and

on step, like a latter-day Mother Courage. (SLM) Fake Gallery, 4319

Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; through August 15. 

(323) 856-1168.

GO ONE NIGHT STAND: AN

IMPROVISED MUSICAL Seven young actors don't use wigs for a musical

parody concoted in the spur of the moment - this is the improv

equivalent of performing without a net. On the night I saw them, they

brewed a father-son conflict that parodied the literary convention of

young people arriving in L.A from the hinterlands to become stars. The

lanky Quinn Beswick portrayed a kid in Tennessee confronting his dad

(Jonah Platt) about not wanting to live out his father's failed dreams,

about not wanting to be a star, but wanting instead to escape to L.A.

to pursue his dream of cleaning up after other people who do want to be

stars. (No shortage of employment opportunities in that field.) The

fresh-scrubbed ensemble showed wit aplenty and boasted bone fide

musical theater chops, particularly though the sharp energy and even

sharper voices of Samantha Martin and Mollie Taxe. Musical Director

Andrew Resnick did piano-accompaniment duties. (SLM) Hudson Theater

Guild, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 9:30 p.m.; through August 22. (323) 960-4429.

NEW REVIEW ONE WOMAN, TWO LIVES

Stage Raw: The Civilians to do L.A. Porno

Photo courtesy of Alretha Thomas

Samantha

(Kellita Smith), the pivotal character in playwright Alretha Thomas'

soap operatic fantasy, is the envy of her neighbor Belinda (Sharon

Munfus).  Sam's preacher husband (understudy Keith Bossier) is

good-looking, ardent, and prosperous.  Their three kids  are dutiful

and loving.  A happy homemaker, Samantha loves cleaning and cooking for

her family; as a pillar of the community she's also on track to receive

the coveted First Lady award from their church.  Disaster looms,

however,  when a hoodlum named Melvin (Billy Mayo) shows up,

threatening to expose the crack-sodden errors of her youth.  Under

Denise Dowse's direction,  Act 1's simplistic plotlines turn

uncomfortably florid in Act 2, as the knavish Melvin resorts to

violence, aggressive sexual embraces (which she spurns) and loaded

weapons.  The story's far-fetched elements are accentuated further by

Smith's coy and honeyed manner, and camera-ready poise, somehow at odds

with the modest stay-at-home mom she's supposed to represent. Some of

her attire (from costume designer Mylette Nora) seems inappropriate:

revealing necklines and high-heeled fuck-me footwear worn when at home

with family and friends,  and a clingy come-hither dress  purchased for

the church award ceremony  that seems more suitable for a racy disco.

The over-the-top Esther Scott milks the role of  Samantha's

cantankerous  mother-in-law  for laugh -- and gets them.  Mayo is

definitively intimidating while Munfus - playing a great girlfriend but

a shrewish wife --  is on target as both.  Designer Marco De Leon has

fashioned an attractive set. Imagined Life Theater, 5615 San Vicente

Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (Deborah

Klugman)

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.

NEW REVIEW SAY GOODBYE TOTO

Stage Raw: The Civilians to do L.A. Porno

Photo by Richard Tatum

Sometimes

it just doesn't pay to tinker with a literary classic. Such is the case

with Amy Heidish's reimagining of the Wizard of Oz. Heidish places Toto

at the center of the narrative, and this dubious conceit wears thin

early on. Joseph Porter does the honors as Dorothy's panting, barking

traveling companion, and after the pair is transported via tornado to

Oz, the canine is inexplicably mistaken for a sorcerer. Accompanying

Dorothy (the fine Renee Scott) on her way to the Emerald City is a

mysterious cat (Tracy Ellott), plus of course the Scarecrow (Mike

Fallon), the cowardly lion (Andreas Ramacho), and Tin Man (Grant

Mahnken) who, in Heidish's version, are all  cursed brothers hoping

that face time with the wizard can get them zapped back into human

form. The most engaging moments come by way of the Wizard (Jake Elsas),

whose magical manipulation of several hand puppets behind a screen is

very funny. Alice Ensor does a dazzling job as the good witch, but this

doesn't redeem a script with a tension that dribbles away. And Jamie

Virostko's bland direction doesn't help. The Hayworth Theatre, 2511

Wilshire Blvd.; L.A., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m., thru Sept. 13.

(323) 969-1707. An Ark Theatre Company production (Lovell Estell III)

GO

SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK LIVE! TOO The original School House Rock was a

long-running kids' TV show that winningly combined cartoon characters

and songs with a high educational content. Here director-choreographer

Rick Sparks assembles six terrific, high-energy performers -- Harley

Jay, Tricia Kelly, Jayme Lake, Michael "Milo" Lopez, Lisa Tharps and

Brian Wesley Turner -- to employ all their skill and pizzazz on songs

about numbers, multiplication, parts of speech, American history,

government, the bones of the body, financial interest rates, and a

score of other useful topics, all turned into lively entertainment. (A

math song about multiplying is called "Naughty Number Nine," and the

American Revolution is served up in "No More Kings.") There's a scrap

of plot, about saving a financially failing diner, but that's the

merest of pretexts. Cody Gillette provides crisp musical direction and

leads the trio (with Anthony Zenteno, on guitars, and Eric Tatuaca on

drums) to provide infectious, hard-driving accompaniments on Adam

Flemming's handsome diner set. Clever costumes are by Kat Marquet, and

Daavid Hawkins provides hundreds of zany props. If you already know

that 7 x 9 = 63, you might feel, as I did, that 20 songs is a few too

many, but the kids seem to love it. Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N.

Fairfax Avenue, L.A.; call for schedule; through August 9. (323)

655-7679, ext. 100, or www.schoolhouserockla.com.

GO SEARCH AND DESTROY Howard Korder's play begins

like a mildly absurdist comedy about a feckless, dunderhead Florida

ice-show promoter, Martin Merkheim (Brian Ridings), who owes $47,000 in

back taxes. When he becomes obsessed with late-night TV self-help guru

Dr. Waxling (Joseph Dunn), he decides he must make a movie of the

doctor's novel, Daniel Strong, as part of his self-empowerment

campaign. But the doctor (who has marketing problems) is unimpressed by

Martin's high ideals and wants cold, hard cash. And the play turns

darker. In his pursuit of money, Martin becomes involved with a

receptionist (Meagan English) who wants to write gory horror flicks, a

shady businessman (Adam Hunter Howard), a couple of drug dealers (Dan

Fishbach and Anthony Duran), and a strung-out coke head (Thom Guillou),

who is political consultant to a conservative senator. The pursuit of

self-improvement leads only to sleaziness, corruption and

self-destruction. Korder's script ricochets between picaresque comedy,

morality play, melodrama and a play of ideas; it's fun to watch, and

director Joshua Adler has assembled a terrific cast. Ridings makes

Martin's bumbling desperation believable, Fishbach and Guillou

contribute sharp comic vignettes, while Howard and Dunn lend a more

sinister touch. (NW) The Complex, Ruby Theatre, 6476 Santa Monica

Boulevard, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Aug. 23.

(323) 960-7776.

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

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

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

SNOOPY!!! THE MUSICAL Larry Grossman and Hal Hacakady's sequel to You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (323) 667-0955.

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.

Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; thru July 26, www.roguemachinetheatre.com. (323) 960-7774. A

Rogue Machine production (Amy Nicholson)

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.

TERMINUS AMERICANA Matt Pelfrey's weird, hot mess of a dark satire

is a virtual dramatization of lunacy, as seen from the inside peering

out. If you have ever noticed someone walking down the street, with a

tinfoil hat firmly lodged atop his head, muttering imprecations about

this or that conspiracy, Pelfrey's play is a work that tells you how

that tragic figure came to be. Mac Winchell (Brett Hren) is a contented

cubicle-dwelling office worker whose life is thrown into disarray when

co-worker Felix (Eric Bunton) goes berserk and starts shooting up the

building. Felix offs himself right in front of Mac, but before he does,

he whispers something unmentionable in his ear. From that moment, Mac

finds himself sliding into a bizarre, alternate universe in which

everything is deranged and violent. After inheriting the Terminus

Americana, a phone book-size manual of madness left by Felix as an

office Secret Santa gift, Mac wanders the country, having a bizarre

series of adventures and ultimately being hailed as a prophet in the

New Church of Christ The Office Shooter -- and you can imagine what one

must do to join that organization. Pelfrey's comedy is intentionally

meandering, full of seemingly random incidents and a disjointed

structure that is meant to be both frustrating and arch. Unfortunately,

a little goes a long way, and two hours of the disconnected babble

almost leaves the audience groping for our own tinfoil hats. Danny

Parker-Lopes' phlegmatic staging suffers from lagging pacing and

strangely clumsy blocking. Although Hren's slow transition from

mild-mannered office drone to howling loon is chillingly convincing,

some of the supporting performances are prone to stiff acting and

halting line readings. (Paul Birchall). Elephant Stageworks, 6322 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 15.

(323) 860-8786.

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.

NEW REVIEW GO TREEFALL The most primal aspects of erotic

attraction, and the dynamics of competition among siblings and parents,

and even the foundations of civilization itself,  play themselves out

in Henry Murray's post-apocalyptic drama, set on and around a mountain

that's being scorched by a global warming sun, as modern civilization

lies in ruins. Four characters (West Liang, Brian Norris, Brian Pugach

and Tania Verafield) play-act through the detritus of the world as they

try to fathom the purpose of continuing, and the meaning of being

human.  The play is utterly despondent  and achingly true, without a

hint of morbidity, and even glimpses of humor, under John Perin Flynn's

studied direction. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through September 6. (323) 960-7774.

A Rogue Machine production (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature.  

WIFE

SWAPPERS "It's nice to have new blood. We get sick of the same asses

and tits all the time," says Jake (Jonathan Palmer) as he and his wife,

Loretta (Mary Scheer), welcome the much younger Paul (Cody Chappel) and

Karen (Chloe Taylor), to their American flag-festooned Orange County

home for a swingers party. While Karen is uncomfortable, Paul seems

eager to explore, throwing himself into a world straight out of the

"free love" 1970s, complete with wooden hot tub. To try to get in the

mood, Karen looks for liquid courage, but in the first of many ironies,

Loretta informs her that alcohol is "against the rules" and generally

frowned upon by these staunch Republicans . . . who nonetheless freely

imbibe on the sly. Soon the group is joined by old friends Gina

(Melissa Denton), her husband, Mac (Michael Halpin), and Shirl (Jodi

Carlisle). All is fun and games until Paul's friend Roy (Todd Lowe)

arrives unexpectedly and goes too far, leading to a quick dissolution

of the party. Justin Tanner, who wrote and directed the piece, pens

snappy banter that cleverly juxtaposes disparate elements to mine their

comic potential, but his overt commentary on the hypocrisy of these

Christ-and-country-loving patriots who love to fuck each other's wives,

is awkward at times. Among the cast, Denton stands out with her

sexually explicit motor mouth, though the rest also play their roles

with aplomb. (MK) The Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Aug. 8. (323) 653-6886.

WWJD ... WHAT WOULD JIMI DO? The Racket Collective presents Felicia

D. Henderson's story of her relationships with her dysfunctional

family, Hollywood agents and Jimi Hendrix. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington

Ave., Hollywood; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 31,

www.the-racket-collective.ticketleap.com...

YA GOTTA GO HIGHER One-man show on addiction and recovery by

comedian Yul Spencer. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Aug. 9,

www.yagottagohigher.com...

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

THE APPLE TREE In a series of three one-act musicals by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (the duo who brought us Fiddler on the Roof),

this 1966 piece thematically explores whether getting what you want

leads to wanting what you get. However, unlike the original Broadway

version, this production features three (mostly) separate casts and

directors. The opener, "The Diary of Adam and Eve," a wry take on the

familiar Biblical tale adapted from the Mark Twain story, is followed

by "The Lady or the Tiger?," from Frank R. Stockton's story of a king's

barbaric system of justice, and finally by"Passionella," a Cinderella-style

story about a chimney sweep who dreams of being a movie star. In the

first act, Gary Lamb's direction and choreography are unspectacular,

and the energy of the piece, including the musical direction's pacing,

is lacking. In the second, director William A. Reilly's pacing is

similarly uneven, as is the level of camp required to sell the

material, though Kit Paquin as Princess Barbara really sells "I've Got

What You Want." The final act is the evening's highlight, as Matthew J.

Williamson's direction features cleverly minimalist set pieces, unique

staging, quick costume changes, and the right amount of shtick to bring

the material to life. Stephanie Fredericks also shines as

Ella/Passionella, with her strong vocals, comic flair and timing.

(Mayank Keshaviah). Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 9. (818) 745-8527.

BILLIE & BOGIE Billie Holiday and Humphrey Bogart had enough

superficiality in common to make them an apt pair for a show about the

psyche of two hard-drinking, hard-living New Yorkers. They became icons

while still feeling they had something to prove -- Holiday to the

bigoted, and Bogart to audiences who underestimated and then

overestimated his acting ability. This is a fine show, but it isn't the

show I've just described. Instead, director Bryan Rasmussen presents

Bogie (Dan Spector) and Lady Day (Synthia L. Hardy) as legends gracing

us with a few dark anecdotes about their roots. Spector and Hardy are

sincere in their affections for these imposing pop figures, but there's

a whiff of Wikipedia to their character profiles -- their monologues

are arranged chronologically, not thematically, chugging along at the

highs and lows of lives about to be cut short while guzzling (but not

feeling) enough booze to tranquilize a tiger. With a running time of

nearly three hours, by the end, we should know Bogie and Billie better

than we do. Instead we walk about with the warm melancholy of sharing a

drink with a fascinating stranger we'll never meet again. (Amy

Nicholson). Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat.,

8 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (818) 990-2324.

CARAPACE ISLE Jon Courie's story of lesbian's return to her

dysfunctional North Carolina home. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim

Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 16,

www.collaborativeartistsensemble.com. (323) 860-6569.

GO EQUUS Director-set designer August Viverito and

his colleagues have mastered the art of clarity and intensity when

working in a tiny space such as this. Peter Shaffer's drama has always

told the harrowing tale of psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Jim Hanna), who

must discover why a severely troubled teenager, Alan Strang (Patrick

Stafford), has gouged out the eyes of six horses with a hoof pick.

What's different here is that Hanna's Dysart suffers an anguish at

least as deep as the boy's, and this carries the play from clever

melodrama into the realm of tragedy. Dysart slowly realizes that Alan

has evolved his own bizarre religion, in which horses are his gods ―

and has enacted a strange Passion Play. The doctor understands that to

cure the boy, he must take from him the richest and most profound

experience of his life. The boy's fierce passion forces Dysart to

recognize the barrenness and aridity of his own existence. Viverito has

cast it beautifully, with riveting performances by Hanna, Stafford and

a splendid supporting cast, who make us feel the play, as well as

understand it. The Chandler Studio Theatre, 12443 Chandler Blvd., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; selected Sundays, 3 p.m.; through Sept.

5. (800) 838-3006, or www.theprodco.com. (Neal Weaver)

GOD BOX Ana Guigui's "musical dramedy" has moments of brilliance but

suffers from a lack of coherence and an awkward format. The play is set

in a local hotel lounge where she Guigui - the daughter of Aregentinian

Jews -- plays piano, she recounts her life as the daughter of a

peregrinating symphony conductor, life in New York, and a warm but

often testy relationship with her parents and brother. Initially, the

material is compelling and often humorous, so much so, that you want to

hear more of it. But the real focus of the play is her frustrating

search for romance and a soul mate, whose qualities are written down

and kept in her "God box." Accounts of a furtive childhood kiss, a

first love and sexual outing, the pain of an abortion, and a romantic

hookup with a salesman, unfurl in a facile, patchwork that is often

difficult to follow and not particularly interesting. Guigui is

delightful channeling characters, with the singular exception of a

black rapper she encountered, which hovers perilously close to crude

caricature. But the woman can play the hell out of the piano, and sings

like an angel, with a diverse repertoire that even includes a haunting

rendition of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." Robert Barker Lyon

directs. Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. August 2 perf at 1 p.m.), thru Aug. 16.

323-960-5770. (Lovell Estell III)

GO THE

HOSTAGE In 1959 Dublin, a young British soldier is held captive by the

Irish Republican Army while an equally young IRA volunteer awaits

execution for killing a policeman. Should the British carry out the

Irishman's sentence, the IRA will do the same to the Englishman.

Playwright Brendan Behan, himself a former IRA member, took this dire

premise and molded a sly political satire that reveals on both sides of

the Anglo-Irish conflict, there is plenty of guilt and hypocrisy, which

tend to be drowned in swigs of Guinness or shots of Jameson. Pat (John

McKenna) is an ex-IRA soldier who with his "wife" Meg (Jenn Pennington)

runs the establishment whose denizens include assorted whores (male and

female), a daft ex-IRA leader (Barry Lynch) and other sundry

lumpenproletariat. When a steely IRA officer (Mark Colson) hides a

British conscript (Patrick Joseph Rieger) in the house, tensions and

hilarity ensue, as assorted characters begin to question the rationale

for the soldier's fate, especially a young girl (Amanda Deibert), who

falls for him. Director McKerrin Kelly and company have culled text

from the original Irish version and the subsequent English one to craft

a boisterous production filled with songs and jigs, characters chatting

with the audience and a provocative finale. (MH) The Banshee, 3435 W.

Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug.

16. (818) 846-5323.

INSANITY In this unexpectedly inert musical from James J. Mellon,

Scott DeTurk, and Larry Russo, Zarek Saxton (Kevin Bailey) is a B-movie

director who, midway through filming his latest slasher flick, drops a

designer drug, sees visions, and decides to make a totally different

movie ― one he hopes will cure war, feed children and save the world.

In other words, he wants to make a movie that will go direct to video.

Perhaps understandably, producer Ramsey (a nicely oily Bob Morrissey)

decides to commit the director to a mental hospital, and tries to bribe

top shrink Megan (Dana Meller) to certify him as nuts so she he can

toss Zarek off the movie. While he's in the bin, Zarek casts a darkly

ironic outsider's eye on the various emotional problems of the inmates

― a collection of damaged souls whom he comes to admire. The play's

shift in tone from sassy Hollywood spoof to a mawkish recycle of One

Flew Over The Cockoo's Nest is awkward and strangely uninvolving ― and

the play's central relationship, between the arrogantly self-important

Zarek and the smirking, humorless Megan, thuds. Strangely enough, the

relationship between DeTurk's unmemorable, smooth jazz score and

Mellon's overly complicated lyrics is not much better, although

Bailey's comical rendition of "You Couldn't Write This Shit," in which

his character ridicules his fellow patients behind their backs, has

some toe-tapping potential. In a supporting role as an actor with

emotional problems, Brad Blaisdell's character shows some depth, while

Sabrina Miller, as the director's self-absorbed leading lady and

girlfriend, conveys the Hollywood mood believably. The rest is a

comparatively dull opus that hasn't yet gelled. (PB) Noho Arts Center,

11136 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

through Aug. 9. (818) 508-7107, ext. 7.

INSIDE PRIVATE LIVES Audience members interact with infamous or

celebrated personages from the 20th century, as re-created in a series

of monologues. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South

Pasadena; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (866) 811-4111.

NEW REVIEW LOVE, SEX, VIOLENCE, ETC. 

Stage Raw: The Civilians to do L.A. Porno

Photo courtesy of Whitefire Theatre

Playwright

Helena Weltman's six playlets might best be described as sketch

dramedy. These character-driven slices of life boast a penchant for

ironic twists, but provide little of the of the titillation that the

title suggests. The outing begins auspiciously with "Saturday Night

Date," in which a barroom pickup between two strangers (in fascinating

portrayals by Lizze Czerner and Danny Grossman) turns into an

intriguingly dangerous battle of wits, before a disappointing ending

that sound like an old joke. The second offering, "Sitting in a Tree"

provides a great opportunity for an actor to play appealingly crazy -

Stephanie R. Keefer fulfills this mission as a woman desperate for a

child. "Date" is directed with terse humor by Daniel Cerny, and "Tree"

with emotional abandon by his father Pavel Cerny. Both directors

successfully draw the audience into each work's disparate styles. The

next four plays, however, lack the textual depth and the acting skills

to match the first two. A great deal of sexual innuendo and

crossed-wire communication cause human complication, but not a real

sense of dramatic tension.  Production values throughout are extremely

simple, with only a few props and set pieces to define the worlds.

Oscar Schwartz's costumes, though, are a bit more intricate and help

tell the various stories. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd.,

Sherman Oaks; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (866) 811-4111. (Tom

Provenzano)

THE

PAIN AND THE ITCH Judging by this 2004 comedy of manners, Steppenwolf

playwright Bruce Norris' worst enemy isn't the left-leaning,

urban-professional parenting he targets in his caustic, social satire,

but his own penchant for overloaded metaphors and excessively

convoluted plots. The action centers on a fateful Thanksgiving

gathering hosted by Kelly (Vonessa Martin), a young attorney, and her

stay-at-home husband, Clay (Brad Price), as told in flashback to a

mysterious, Arab cab driver, Mr. Hadid (Kevin Vavasseur). Kelly and

Clay seem to be living the American dream with success, wealth

(suggested by Kurt Boetcher's distractingly literal, luxury townhouse

set) and two young children. With the arrival of Clay's acid-tongued,

plastic-surgeon brother, Cash (Scott Lowell), and his

malaprop-spouting, Slavic-immigrant girlfriend, Kalina (Katie Marie

Davies), however, a host of simmering tensions and festering family

resentments quickly surface, not the least of which concerns Clay's

growing alarm at the suspicious genital rash afflicting his

overprotected, four-year-old daughter, Kayla (Ava Feldman in a role

double cast with Olivia Aaron). Norris is at his best when skewering

the culture of narcissism that blinds his Yuppie protagonists to the

grimmer truths of the world around them (as when Kelly's claim of

childhood abuse by "neglect alternating with sarcasm" prompts naive

comfort from Kalina in her own story of her brutal, childhood rape by

soldiers). But Dámaso Rodriguez's crisp direction of a talented cast

can't mitigate the tangle of telescoping flashbacks, red herrings and a

wildly improbable and bathetic dénouement that all ultimately blunt

Norris' critiques. (BR) Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave.,

Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (626) 683-6883.

RAY BRADBURY'S YESTERMORROWS The sci-fi author's short stories "The

Meadow," "Cistern" and "A Device Out of Time," adapted for the stage.

Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 5, www.plays411.com/raybradbury. (323)

960-4451.

7DS Zombie Joe's Underground presents Amanda Marquardt's survey of the

seven deadly sins. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood; Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (818) 202-4120.

74 GEORGIA AVENUE/THE PUSHCART PEDDLERS Murray Schisgal's two mildly

absurdist one-acts chronicle varied aspects of Jewish life. In the

good-hearted but conventional farce The Pushcart Peddlers, directed by

Chris Winfield, and set on the New York Waterfront in the early 1900s,

wily banana peddler Cornelius (Lloyd Pedersen) cons greenhorn Shimmel

(Ren Bell) out of all he owns --but Shimmel falls for Maggie (Melissa

Soso), a flower-seller with theatrical ambitions, he quickly learns

street smarts. The performances are broad but skillful. The more

ambitious and more personal 74 Georgia Avenue, directed by Frances

Mizrahi, is set in a formerly Jewish neighborhood that's now entirely

black. Martin Robbins (Larry Margo) revisits his childhood home and

discovers it's occupied by Joseph Watson (Disraeli Ellison), the son of

the janitor at Robbins' old synagogue, who has become more Jewish than

Robbins. Joseph fondly remembers the old days from the synagogue and

has collected clothes, which mysteriously allow him to assume the

identities of their former owners. When he "becomes" Martin's zayda, it

allows Martin to resolve old resentments, and regain respect for his

nebbishy father. Both actors deliver fine performances, despite the

play's heavy-handed treatment of the supernatural. (NW) Lonny Chapman's

Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru Aug. 22. http://www.lcgrt.com or

(866) 811-4111.

THE UNSEEN In some unspecified country, two prisoners, Valdez (Matt

Kirkwood) and Wallace (Darin Singleton) have been held for years in

isolation cells. They are close enough to talk to but not to see each

other. They don't know why they have been incarcerated, or by whom.

They are constantly questioned and tortured, and subjected to

nerve-shattering noises. They spend their days carrying out private

rituals, and playing word and memory games in an attempt to preserve

their sanity. The only mortal they see is the guard Smash (Douglas

Dickerman), who is both torturer and caretaker. Craig Wright's

allegorical new play keeps its larger meaning sketchy, perhaps because

it lacks a concrete context. It's interesting mainly for the

interaction of the two men, and the strange and whimsical nature of

Smash. Wright directs his play skillfully on Desma Murphy's handsomely

bleak set. Kirkwood and Singleton provide richly detailed portraits of

the two men who comfort themselves with escape fantasies, and Dickerman

creates a bizarre figure as the guard who hates his charges because he

can't help feeling their pain as he tortures them. (NW) The Road

Theatre, 5108 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.,

Sun., 2 p.m., through August 22. (866) 811-4111 or www.roadtheatre.com.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

AESOP'S FABLES As re-imagined by the Kentwood Players' Shirley

Hatton. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.; Sat., 11 a.m.

& 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 15, www.kentwoodplayers.org. (310) 645-5156.

AUNT FONDEEN AND THE LOST DUTCHMAN GOLDMINE Free performances,

courtesy Culver City Public Theatre. Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park,

Motor Ave. & Braddock Dr., Culver City; Sat.-Sun., noon.; thru Aug.

23. (310) 712-5482.

BACH AT LEIPZIG With a few notes of sardonic humor, Itamar Moses'

sketch about would-be musical stars of the 18th century, who ultimately

fade into the shadows of Johann Sebastian Bach, aims for for erudition

but too often lands in tediousness. Four composers named Georg and

three Johanns vie for the post as Leipzig's organ master, a position

that would guarantee the winner the power to shape the musical,

cultural (and, it seems political) fortunes of the Holy Roman Empire --

at least the valuable German parts. Intrigues, reality show-style

alliances and betrayals abound as the composers plot and prepare for an

all-important audition. Between connivances they spout literate,

self-conscious oratory covering the artistic soul in and out of

relation to the growing feud between Lutheranism and Calvinism. An

interesting descent into farce is undercut by the author's too-precious

self-comparison to Molière. Director Darin Anthony serves up almost

balletic choreography, with some success. The best moments, though,

come from Rob Nagle's powerhouse performance as the only thoughtful

character, and from Henry Clarke, who perfectly balances swagger and

foppishness as a womanizing nobleman. The production is visually

stunning, through an array of exquisite period costumes and wigs

designed by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg. (TP) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S.

Sepulveda Blvd., Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug. 23.

(310) 477-2055.

CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL South Park's Trey Parker penned this

man-eating musical. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 22, www.thegaragetheatre.org. (866)

811-4111.

NEW REVIEW THE CHAIRS

Stage Raw: The Civilians to do L.A. Porno

Photo by Paul Rubenstein

Eugene Ionesco's 1952 post-apocalyptic comi-tragedy premiered the same year as Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot

- another post-apocalyptic comi-tragedy that defined the Theater of the

Absurd, a literary movement trying to respond to the inexplicable

nihilism of the Holocaust, and of the detonations of the atomic bombs

that ended, or perhaps cemented the end, of World War II.  Godot's

literary images are perfect - a pair of clowns in a barren land waiting

for something that might provide some direction, or purpose, while

habitually playing out ludicrous daily rituals as time passes, and

passes them by. Less so, The Chairs, which is comparatively

dense, alluding to the intersection of useless language with a world

vacant of intrinsic meaning or purpose. The occupants of The Chairs

are also ancient clowns, Wife (Cynthia Mance) and Husband (Bo Roberts)

occupying an otherwise abandoned island after Paris, the City of Light,

is a mere memory. Husband, a lord of the mop and bucket, keeps boasting

of his satisfaction with life, though Wife reminds him constantly of

what he could have been. His final act is to be a speech, a

performance, a message for future generations that will explain the

meaning of existence. And for this performance the pair gathers chairs

into their room, a makeshift stage, so that the chairs echo the chairs

of the theater directly behind them.  Guests are arriving, military men

and belles they seduce, and even the emperor. We hear fog horns of

arriving boats and the excitement builds, a mob entirely created in the

minds of Husand and Wife. For us, the chairs are empty. The are filled

only by the persuasiveness of the actors to stir our imagination. And

this is the emptiness, filled only by a willful act of imagination,

that lies in the cavernous hollow of Ionesco's philosophy. Garth

Whitten turns in a fine, fleeting appearance as the Orator, hired by

Husband to deliver his message, because Husband is too afraid to speak

for himself. Frederique Michel stages, as usual, a physically beautiful

spectacle with Charles Duncombe's production design. The production

takes flight in moments when the old couple swirls into a ballet of

collecting chairs. It works best when it's a dance. The language

however, or Donald Allen's English translation of it, is beyond the

actors, who have both proved so capable in other productions here.

Michel and her actors haven't yet found a dynamic musicality that can

lift Husband's private agony beyond the redundant blasts of a tuba, or

Wife's maternal taunting beyond the peeping of a piccolo.  When Husband

speaks his beautiful lament, "Where are the snows of yesteryear?", it's

in the same harried tone as his later confession about abandoning his

dying mother. Even a play about emptiness needs rises and falls - especially

a play about emptiness. The challenge is how to fill the void. City

Garage, 1340½ Fourth Street (alley), Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 5:30 p.m.; through September 13. (310) 319-9939. (Steven Leigh

Morris) See Theater feature.

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.; indef. (310)

394-9779.

CRACK WHORE BULIMIC, GIRL-NEXT-DOOR Marnie Olson's 1980s

coming-of-age story. Psychic Visions Theatre, 3447 Motor Ave., L.A.;

Sat., 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 7, 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (310) 535-6007.

GO CYMBELINE THE PUPPET KING Shakespeare's

Cymbeline is a natural for adaptation as children's theater since it

shares many plot elements of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The play

has been much shortened and simplified. Imogen's husband, Posthumous,

and his treacherous friend Iachimo have been eliminated, and the sex

and violence are reduced to minimum in slapstick. In this goofy,

kid-friendly adaptation by Angelina Berliner, King Cymbeline (Stephen

M. Porter) is an ineffectual booby, easily manipulated by his evil,

ambitious second wife (Donna Jo Thorndale), who wants to marry off her

boorish, dimwitted son Cloten (Adam Jefferis) to his daughter Imogen

(Erin Anderson). But feisty Imogen (she calls her unwelcome suitor

Cloten the Rotten) is having none of this, and takes to the woods,

where she's befriended by Belarius (Mary Eileen O'Donnell) and his

adopted son Guidarius (Kirstin Hinton), who was raised by wolves, and

is given to occasional howling. Many of the jokes are probably over the

heads of most children, but they're kept amused by director Will

Pellegrini's zanily frenetic staging, and the prospect of free

Popsicles. The short piece (less than an hour) is performed outdoors,

and best of all, admission is free. (Neal Weaver). Media Park, 9070

Venice Blvd., Culver City; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.; thru Aug. 30,

www.theactorsgang.com. (310) 838-4264.

DRIVE Kentwood Players presents Emily Dodi's latest play, about

disillusioned women looking for answers. Westchester Playhouse, 8301

Hindry Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 15,

www.kentwoodplayers.org. (310) 645-5156.

NEW REVIEW GO FRANZ SCHUBERT:  HIS LETTERS AND

MUSIC Director Peter Medak's production offers the rare and frankly

unmissable opportunity to hear and see Julia Migenes, one of the great

operatic divas of our day, gloriously assay lieder by the 19th century

composer Franz Schubert -- all in an intimate 99-seat theater.  The

piece is essentially a concert, reminiscent in style of the great

recitals by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, with meager context provided by

performer Jeff Marlow's amiable rendition of selected letters by

Schubert.  Yet this doesn't seem to matter much when Migenes's

incredible soprano fills the theater.  The show, which Migenes

conceived with Phillipe Calvario, consists of a broad stroke biography

of Schubert, the wunderkind composer (and protégé of Antonio Salieri,

though that's not much to brag about these days) whose prodigious

output of hundreds of songs and operas was cut short by his death from

syphilis complications in 1828.  Marlow's turn as Schubert presents a

youthful, perhaps manic depressive rake, who's understandably driven by

his passions - his rage over not achieving the career goals of being a

professional musician is offset by his devotion and love for his art. 

Throughout his rendition of Schubert's letters, Marlow is shadowed by

Migenes, as a sort of angelic muse, echoing the passions and thoughts

of the composer through his songs.  A moment in which Schubert

expresses despair and frustration is followed by Migenes's beautifully

simple rendition of Schubert's paeon of forgiveness, "Du Bist Die

Ruh."  A moment of rage is followed by a thundering "Die Junge

Nonne."   The showstopping finale consists of Migenes's chilling "Ave

Maria" - a gesture of benediction, sung as Schubert himself dies.  The

play is frankly not for musical neophytes and it is best to do due

diligence on Schubert and his Lieder before coming to the theater - but

Migenes, assisted by pianist Victoria Kirsch's deceptively simple

accompaniment, offers a powerful and compelling theatrical experience.

Odyssey Theater, 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd, West Los Angeles;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (310) 477-2055.  (Paul

Birchall)

GO

HEAVY LIKE THE WEIGHT OF A FLAME While R. Ernie Silva's older brothers

were doing hard drugs, he hid out in his room and watched Masterpiece

Theater. Silva wasn't a nerd; he break-danced, liked weed, and grew

dreadlocks. But he lived in Bushwick, and to cops, bosses and his mom,

being a young, black male in Bushwick meant you were and would always

be just like everyone else. Railroaded into a life headed for rehab or

death, Silva grabbed a boxcar heading west to go on an American

walkabout. Silva is a charismatic talent with slender build and wide

grin. The story of his travels, co-written with James Gabriel and

directed by Mary Joan Negro, taps into his charm and energy, sending

him up and around a set of simple black boxes, strumming his guitar,

Savannah, and impersonating the noteworthy, from Richard Pryor and Jimi

Hendrix to August Wilson. The travails of young artists and their

search for self-definition are a familiar solo show trope, but even the

heightened moments ― the death of a brother, an auspicious visit from

an eagle ― feel earned, not manufactured. I expect we'll see a lot more

of Silva, and this very solid monologue is a good place to get

acquainted. (AN) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through August 8. (310) 477-2055.

GO A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM In a forest of fairies,

skater boy Lysander (a nicely slacker-y Rett Nadol) runs off with his

sweet fiancée, Hermia (Rachel Emmers, whose Valley Girl-like accents

add comedic luster). However, mischievous fairy Puck (Joey Pata) casts

a spell on Lysander so he falls for Hermia's pal Helena (drolly

neurotic Adeye Sahran). Meanwhile, fairy-queen Titania (Amanda Arbues)

is enchanted into falling in love with a boorish Bottom (Kenneth De

Abrew, playing the well-known character as an East Asian Oliver Hardy),

who has been turned into a donkey for the day. Director Stephan

Wolfert's charming staging of Shakespeare's romantic comedy fantasia is

a co-production between the Veterans Center for the Performing Arts,

the U.S. Veterans' Artists Alliance and Shakespeare Santa Monica. The

show's ensemble is a mix of professional actors and military veterans ―

and one or two of whom are both at the same time, since the vocations

are not mutually exclusive. One might expect the presence of veterans

to give the show a somehow therapeutic undercurrent, but, in fact, the

show is just good comedy, boasting some polished clowning. If it

weren't for the program bios, which mention the performer veterans'

time served and military branch (alongside the usual list of turns in

standards like Noises Off and Blithe Spirit) the idea that the briskly

staged and thoroughly enjoyable show has a connection to the armed

forces probably wouldn't occur to us. Staged in a makeshift theater

space atop a musical band shell behind a West L.A. library, the show's

delightfully daffy mood and intimacy combined with the picniclike

atmosphere offer a laid-back, unpretentious spectacle that's perfect

for summer ― and for Midsummer. While some performers may wrestle with

the verse or fall prey to weak diction, the show's energy and

innocently romantic comic timing craft a production that's hard to

resist. (PB) West L.A. Bandshell, 11338 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa

Monica; Sat., 6 p.m.; Sun., 4:30 p.m.; through Aug. 9. Free.

MUTINY AT PORT CHICAGO ]During the American Revolution, George

Washington opposed arming African-Americans, "lest they turn our

weapons against ourselves." This attitude prevailed in the American

military until after World War II. The Navy allowed black seaman to

serve only as noncombatant cooks and day laborers, and at Port Chicago,

near San Francisco, they were deployed as stevedores, loading volatile

explosives onto transport ships. Neither white officers nor black

workers received training in handling explosives, safety rules were

ignored, workers were driven to meet dangerous, impossible quotas, and

workers were told the ammo "couldn't possibly explode." But on July 17,

1944, it did explode, killing 320 men and injuring 390. Fifty black

seamen, ably represented here by actors J. Teddy Garces, Eric

Bivens-Bush, Pedro Coiscou and Durant Fowler, refused to return to

ammo-loading duties under the same terrible conditions, and were

falsely accused of conspiracy/mutiny. White officers fabricated

evidence in a kangaroo court, where the attorney for the defense (the

excellent Maury Sterling) was hamstrung at every turn. Because the

issues were so completely black and white, playwright Paul Leaf can't

avoid melodrama. His brief Act 1 is a setup for effective trial scenes

in Act 2. An uneven production is graced with some solid performances.

(NW) Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Ave., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug. 15. (310) 397-3244.

GO ST. JOAN OF THE SLAUGHTERHOUSES For a lucid

analysis of the malfunctioning global financial markets, one could do

worse than Bertolt Brecht. And it's hard to imagine doing Brecht any

better than director Michael Rothhaar in this electrifying staging of

the Marxist maestro's classic, anti-morality play, St. Joan of the

Slaughterhouses. Set in the Chicago meatpacking markets of the 1930s

(wittily caricatured in Danielle Ozymandias' costumes), the story

cleverly inverts the Jeanne d'Arc legend in the character of Joan Dark

(a dynamic Dalia Vosylius), an antipoverty crusader whose "Warriors of

God" mission caters to packers left destitute by slaughterhouse

closings. Joan's efforts to get the men back to work lead her to

financier Pierpont Mauler (the fine Andrew Parks), unaware that it is

his stock manipulations that are responsible for the closings and that

Mauler is cynically using Joan's appeals to further his scheme. When

she subsequently refuses a Mauler bribe for the financially strapped

mission, she is cast into the street, where she belatedly realizes the

pointlessness of good intentions without collective action. Powered by

Peter Mellencamp's vivid, new translation and an unerring ensemble

(including standouts Robin Becker, Ed Levey, Tony Pasqualini and Daniel

Riordan), Rothhaar's production is a perfectly pitched tribute to the

principles of epic theater. (It's also a showcase for the multitalented

Norman Scott, who lights his own set design and shines as Mauler's

scurvy hatchet man.) Rothhaar & Co. not only prove that the old,

dialectical dogmatist still has teeth but that Brecht's bark and his

bite are both wickedly entertaining. (BR) Pacific Resident Theatre, 703

Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 9.

(310) 822-8392.

SIDE MAN Warren Leight's jazztastic memory play. (In the Studio

Theater.). Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 9. (562) 494-1014.

SPECIAL THEATER EVENTS

007 CASINO AFFAIR Get gambling at this Son of Semele fund-raiser

with non-cash casino gaming, raffles, drinks, hors d'oeuvres and a

James Bond impersonation contest. Eagle Rock Center for the Arts, 2225

Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; Fri., Aug. 7, 7 p.m.. (323) 226-1617.

BOBRAUSHENBERGAMERICA Charles Mee's celebration of artist Bob

Rauschenberg, benefiting Class Act Musical Children's Theatre. Class

Act Musical Theatre, 5345 Wilhelmina Ave., Woodland Hills; opens Aug.

7; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 16, www.theatricians.com.

(818) 703-6364.

IN ARABIA WE'D ALL BE KINGS Alive Theatre presents Stephen Adly

Guirgis' study of Times Square losers. ($25 gets you dinner, wine, live

music, and a cast-and-crew meet-and-greet.). Nino's Restaurant, 3853

Atlantic Ave., Long Beach; Sat., Aug. 8, 7 p.m.. (562) 508-1788.

OJAI PLAYWRIGHTS CONFERENCE The 12th annual program features

readings of new works by Stephen Belber, Bill Cain, Stephen Adly

Guirgis, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori. Matilija Junior High School

Auditorium, 703 El Paseo Rd, Ojai; Aug. 11-16, www.ojaiplays.org. (805)

640-0400.

THEATRE WEST PLAY READING SERIES July 7: What Are Friends For? by Victoria Vidal; July 14: Moose on the Loose by Dina Morrone; July 21: There Is a Season by Doug Haverty; July 28: Abandon by Chris DiGiovanni; August 4: Grandma Good by Arden Teresa Lewis; August 11: Zeno's Parado by Wendy Graf. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 11. (323) 851-7977.


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