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Stage Raw: The Crucible

Stage Raw: The Crucible

AT YOUR FINGERTIPS, THIS WEEK'S COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS

Also, this the latest NEW REVIEWS and this week's THEATER FEATURE on the 2009 Pacific Playwrights' Festival

THE CRUCIBLE

Stage Raw: The Crucible


Photo courtesy of Actors Co-op

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

For other NEW THEATER REVIEWS seen over the weekend, press the Continue Reading tab directly below.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for May 15-21, 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

BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO Rajiv Joseph's study of war,

involving two American soldiers, an Iraqi translator, and the ghosts of

Uday and Ousay Hussein. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd.,

Culver City; opens May 17; Sun., May 17, 6:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru June 7. (213)

628-2772.

BINGO WITH THE INDIANS Adam Rapp's dark comedy about scheming

thespians. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; opens May 15;

Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru June 7,

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

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

father of modern computer science," who was criminally prosecuted and

chemically castrated for his homosexuality. Chandler Studio, 12443

Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; opens May 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

June 7, 3 p.m.; Sun., June 14, 3 p.m.; thru June 20, www.theprodco.com.

(800) 838-3006.

COME BACK, LITTLE HORNY Artistic family unravels in Laura

Richardson's play. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; opens May

16; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru June 20, www.tix.com. (800)

595-4849.

THE ELEPHANT MAN Bernard Pomerance's story of the deformed

Englishman. New Place Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove St., North Hollywood;

opens May 16; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 21,

www.theatermania.com. (866) 811-411.

F YOURSELF: AN EVENING WITH FAMKE ROUMSTEAD The life coach and

sexologist discusses "romance, relationships and rutting.". BANG, 457

N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; opens May 16; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 30. (323)

653-6886.

FRAUDESTEIN, EL MONSTRUO SIGUE VIVO Ana Francis Mor's cabaret farce

interpreting the Frankenstein story in modern Mexico. (In Spanish with

English supertitles.). Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St.,

L.A.; May 21-23, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 24, 3 p.m.. (213) 489-0994.

GOSPEL! GOSPEL! GOSPEL! Otis Sallid's history of gospel music, from

slavery to the present. Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 4401 W. Eighth St.,

L.A.; May 15-16, www.jamespickensjrfoundation.org. (323) 939-1128.

HEPBURN SINGS! Kevin Dulude is

Katharine Hepburn!. Playhouse Theatre Players, 600 Moulton Ave., L.A.;

May 15-16, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 3 p.m.. (323) 227-5410.

I'LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT Jonathan Coogan's life journey

from drug busts to domestic bliss, written by Coogan and Dan Frischman.

Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; opens

May 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 13, www.katselastheatre.org. (310)

358-9936.

THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT Odyssey Theatre's Outreach Program

and the Los Angeles City College Theatre Department present Stephen

Adly Guirgis' tragicomedy. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.,

L.A.; opens May 15; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 24.

(310) 477-2055.

THE LAY OF THE LAND Performance artist Tim Miller's State of the Gay

Union address. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica;

May 15-16, 8:30 p.m.; May 22-23, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.

LOVELY DAY Husband and wife debate whether their only son should

enlist in the military, in Leslie Ayvazian's play. Luna Playhouse, 3706

San Fernando Road, Glendale; Sat., May 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 3

p.m.; Thurs., May 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 24, 3

p.m., www.itsmyseat.com. (818) 500-7200.

RETRO COCO: UGLY COCO Can a drag queen save the world? That is the

question for Miss Coco Peru. L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Renberg

Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; May 15-16, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 7

p.m.. (323) 860-7302.

RANTOUL AND DIE, A ROMANTIC COMEDY WRAPPED IN RAZOR WIRE Mark

Roberts' funny business about a marriage on the edge. Lillian Theatre,

1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; opens May 16; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; thru July 4, www.rantoulanddie.com. (323) 960-4424.

SPIT LIKE A BIG GIRL Clarinda Ross' one-woman memoir of growing up

Southern, coping with her father's death, and raising her disabled

daughter. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; opens May 16;

Sat., May 16, 6:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., 2 & 7 p.m.;

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

TRAFFICKING IN BROKEN HEARTS Edwin Sanchez's play about a gay

hustler torn between two lovers. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens May 15; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru June 7, www.tix.com. (323) 957-1884.

THE WAY OUT Timothy Nolan's story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter's

final appeal of his murder conviction. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third

Street Promenade, Santa Monica; May 15-16, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 3

& 7:30 p.m., www.plays411.com/thewayout. (323) 960-4412.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE

GO AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Come for Act 2. Richard

Maltby, Jr. directed this music-bar revue of songs from the Fats Waller

era, many composed by Waller, with words by a stream of lyricists,

including Maltby, Jr. Like the director, choreographer Arthur Faria has

also returned from years-long involvement with the 1978 Broadway show

to streamline this revival -- dwarfed somewhat by the Ahmanson'

barn-like scale. The glitz of shimmering streams of small lights that

rim the feet of stairways, or blast in an arc over John Lee Beatty's

art deco set (lighting design by Pat Collins), only gets in the way.

Music director William Foster McDaniel sits parked at a spinet that

floats across the stage through the wonder of hydraulics. I found Act 1

insufferable, with the women in the five actor ensemble overplaying the

same bits of mock-jealousy and forced, girly eroticism, as though

Malby, Jr. adhered to the dubious principle that if a gag fails once,

keep repeating it until it works. The interpretations of 15 songs in

Act 1, including "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Squeeze Me," ranges from

competent to painful, with the uber-effect of cheesiness stemming from

the strain of forcing an intimate revue into the kind of overly broad

performing style that it just can't accommodate. Act 2, is like a

different show. The glitz recedes, and the style settles into something

more earnest and simple -- even the vaudeville bits, such as Eugene

Barry-Hill's terrific rendition of "The Viper's Drag" in which he

wobbles amidst jazzy crooning about the pleasures of reefer. Most of

the act, however, is committed to blues and ballads, sung with

emotional earnestness and simple tech support, with the help of the

great eight-piece band behind them, and McDaniel on piano. The show is

about the music and contains a wit that 's far more savvy and wry that

the style of humor in Act 1. The music also provides a mirror onto the

ambitions and torments of people in the years before WWII. When the

performers (also including Doug Eskew, Armelia McQueen, Roz Ryan and

Debra Walton) are left alone to do what they do best, the show takes

flight. The company turns "Black and Blue" into an ethereal quintet,

accompanied only by the piano, that could be been plucked from a church

service. (SLM) Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through May 31. (213) 638-4017

or http://centertheatregroup.org.

BACK TO BACHARACH AND DAVID This splashy production provides a

timely reminder of just how much the songs of Burt Bacharach (music)

and Hal David (lyrics) have imbedded themselves in our consciousness.

With their 40 chart-topping hits, many written for Dionne Warwick, they

created an astonishing body of work. This production, with musical

arrangements by Steve Gunderson, direction by \Kathy Najimy, and busy

choreography by Javier Velasco, features some 30 of their songs,

including "Close To You," "I Say A Little Prayer," and "What The World

Needs Now Is Love." The four performers, Diana De Garmo, Tom Lowe,

Susan Mosher and Tressa Thomas are expert, energetic and vocally adept

(two of them are American Idol alums), but the production suggests a

cabaret show masquerading as a rock concert. The vast venue works

against intimacy and tends to homogenize the performers, while the

flashing, moving, sometimes blinding colored lights, cinematic

projections, and smoke machines can distract, particularly from the

less familiar songs. One is grateful for the moments, like Lowe's

rendition of "Alfie," when someone is allowed to just sing, without

being overloaded with production values or cutesy choreography. It's a

fun show, and it goes down smoothly, but a little less might have

provided a little more. (NW) The Music Box @ Fonda, 6126 Hollywood

Boulevard, Hollywood; www.etix.com for schedule and tickets; thru May

17.

NEW REVIEW

CROWNS This musical by Regina Taylor examines the passionate attachment

of certain church-going 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 first-hand 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 to the importance of hats to her

identity and her spirituality. As directed by Israel Hicks, 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 that

topnotch 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 most 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. Nate Holden

Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.;  Thurs.-Fri., 8

p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 14. (323) 964-9768.

An Ebony Repertory Theatre/Pasadena Playhouse production. (Deborah

Klugman)

Stage Raw: The Crucible


Crowns Photo by Craig Schwartz for ERT

DIRTY DANCING -- THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE Eleanor Bergstein,

screenwriter of the 1987 box-office hit, gives her formulaic film the

Broadway treatment. In case you forgot, here's the high concept: "Two

fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds come together

in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their

lives.". Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8

p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru June 28.

(213) 365-3500.

NEW REVIEW GO

THE FANTASTICKS  Fifty years of encroaching cynicism have not

diminished the whimsical charm of this diminutive musical fable by Tom

Jones and Harvey Schmidt. Callow youth Matt (Lucas Grabeel) and dreamy

girl Luisa (Alison Woods) romantically believe they are star-crossed

lovers - not knowing their parents (Harry Groaner and Eileen T'Kaye)

have created the illusion through a feigned feud. They hire the

mystical bandit El Gallo (Eric McCormack) to unite the couple, but he

must first give them a taste of the world. Darryl Archibald has

beautifully rendered the delicate score, and his small orchestra and

the cast sing the familiar tunes ("Try to Remember") with the purity of

mid-century musical comedy. Director Jason Alexander treats the piece

with respect, allowing its gentle, often joyous essence to prevail. He

does add an extraneous theme of old-fashioned vaudeville magic tricks,

but this gambit works, adding just a bit of visual flair without

overshadowing the story. The magic  also provides moments for Lee

Martino's fine choreography.  Bradley Kaye's nifty set design limits

the actors to a small oval stage with a severe downward slope, that

brings the play's intimacy to fore. Kate Bergh's costumes underscore

the timelessness of the piece, with a lovely balance of costume pieces

from myriad periods. UCLA Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall, Westwood;

Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through May 17. (310)

825-2101. A Reprise Theater Company production (Tom Provenzano)

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

Hank Williams. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru May 24. (866) 811-4111.

LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN Oscar Wilde's satire of Victorian-era

marriage. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach;

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

LOOKING FOR NORMAL Gender-bender comedic drama by Jane Anderson

about a middle-aged Midwesterner who decides after 25 years of marriage

that he wants a sex-change operation. Malibu Stage Company, 29243

Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru May

24. (310) 589-1998.

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 June 28. (310) 208-54545.

LYDIA This L.A. premiere of Octavio Solis' poetical drama boasts

many of the same actors featured when the play premiered at the Denver

Theater Center. And staying with a production for so long is one

possible explanation for the dynamic and richly textured performances

by Stephanie Beatriz in the title role - a feisty teenage maid hired

from Mexico by a dubiously assimilated Latino-American family in mid

1970s El Paso. Her mirror image is the teenage daughter, Ceci (Onahoua

Rodriguez, equally enhralling), of a bitter short order cook, Claudio

(Daniel Zacapa, in a perfectly modulated interpretation of brutal

machismo and sensitive stoicism) and his vivacious wife, Rosa (Catalina

Maynard). Ceci suffers brain damage from an auto accident that left her

writhing and twitching, speaking with what one character calls a

"vegetable tongue." But when Solis and director Juliette Carrillo spin

out some magical realism, Ceci rises like a dancer and speaks with

hidden knowledge in waves of thick poetry. At first, juxtaposed against

the gentle strains of a guitar and the family's daily rituals, the

effect has a transcendent beauty, but eventually this etherial device

simply imposes on the play's more rudimentary aspect: investigating the

mystery of what led to the terrible car crash. The answer involves a

pair of brothers, one a sensitive poet (Carlo Albán), the other a

fighter (Tony Sancho), and a cousin (Max Arciniega) who, early on,

shows up in an INS uniform -- a sliver of foreshadowing that's every bit

as bludgeoning as the many mirror images are delicate. This is a hefty

play that's ultimately, without any intended irony, the kind of

tele-novella (with some dream sequences) that the characters watch in

their living room. Reaching for epic, it's mostly long - the difference

being in the quality of the secrets unearthed. (SLM) Mark Taper Forum,

135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 p.m.; Sun.,

1 & 6:30 p.m.; through May 17.

MARRY ME A LITTLE/THE LAST FIVE YEARS East West Players present a

pair of one-acts: Stephen Sondheim's deleted Broadway tunes and Jason

Robert Brown's bidirectional romance. David Henry Hwang Theater, 120

Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June

7, www.eastwestplayers.org. (213) 625-7000.

GO THE REHEARSAL In French dramatist Jean Anouilh's

scintillating 1958 play, a group of amateur thespians is rehearsing a

production of Marivaux's 18th century The Double Inconstancy,

which offers a skewed mirror image of their world, and provides a

pretext for Soojin Lee's lavish Louis XVth costumes. The Count

(Robertson Dean), known as Tiger, and his wife Eliane (Susan Angelo),

devote their lives to pleasure. He has a mistress (Jill Hill), and she

has a lover (Steve Coombs). Also in attendance is Hero (Geoff Elliott),

Tiger's boyhood friend, now a destructive, cynical drunk. Eager to

seduce the young governess, Lucile (Lenne Klingaman), Tiger casts her

in the play's ingénue role. To his own astonishment, he falls deeply in

love, for the first time in his life, and she returns his love. But

passion and sincerity offer profound threats to their shallow,

hedonistic world, and the others join forces to destroy this dangerous

love, with Hero assigned to deliver the cruel coup-de-grace. Director

Julia Rodriguez-Elliott gives this richly textured and sophisticated

play a brilliant, handsome and finely-honed production laced with

splendid performances. Special kudos for Elliott's detailed,

deeply-felt Hero. (NW) A Noise Within, 234 South Brand Boulevard,

Glendale; in rep, call for schedule; through May 24. (818) 240-0901,

Ext. 1.

GO THE SEAFARER If you're seeking innovation in the

theater, look elsewhere. Conor McPherson's Irish yarn is chip off the

stock-block of Celtic-folklore - story-telling, bullshitting,

scatological jokes, card playing and a visit by somebody from the

metaphysical realm, which raises the not-trivial question: what on

earth are we doing with our time? Thanks to a quintet of

sharp-as-they-come performances, under Randall Arney's carefully

calibrated production, the event holds up. McPherson's drama isn't as

menacing as in New York; Arney gives it a lighter touch, which reveals

some of its holes but also skirts around both melodrama and glibness.

This is starkly moral universe, filled with causes and consequences,

where somebody named Mr. Lockhart (Tom Irwin, in a spit-and-polished

suit) arrives to collect an old debt at the North Dublin home-tavern of

Sharky (Andrew Connolly) and his disabled brother, Richard (John

Mahoney) - who blinded himself while scavenging in a trash canister.

The drama slowly pivots on a poker game with life and death stakes as

the men, including denizens Ivan (Paul Vincent O'Connor) and Nickly

Giblin (Matt Roth) - who's the new husband of Sharky's ex-wife - try to

bluff their way through the night, which is really the larger allegory

for existence. Imagine Harold Pinter having re-written Charles Dickens'

A Christmas Carol in an Irish brogue. Arney's gentle production can't

mask or provide irony for the sentimental resolution, but the strength

of his interpretation derives from the silent, brooding power of

Connolly's victimized Sharky, and the perverse indulgences of Sharky's

blind brother, played by Mahoney with a gleeful grittiness that renders

him a weird blend of whining matron and the power-broker of the house.

The marvelous, tawdry details of Takeshi Kata's set have little

congruence with the actors' perfect teeth - one tiny reminder of how

difficult it is to leave Hollywood on our stages, despite theater's

magic.(SLM) Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood;

Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8:30 p.m.;Sun., 2

& 7 p.m.; through May 24. (310) 208-54545.

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW Shakespeare's battle of the sexes. (Schedule

varies, call for info.). A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale;

Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 17. (818) 240-0910.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND DOWNTOWN AREAS

ACME THIS WEEK ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest

hosts each week. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat.,

8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

NEW REVIEW GO

BIG Director Richard Israel and his fine cast have a first-rate revival

of this 1996 Broadway musical, based on the film that made Tom Hanks a

star. And if you've seen the movie and think you know the story, think

again: You can expect a few witty surprises here. Big (John Weidman

book, David Shire music, Richard Maltby lyrics), is a whimsical tale

about Josh (L.J. Benet), an undersized teenager whose oversized crush

on a schoolmate results in a startling metamorphosis when a carnival

contraption grants his wish to be "big." When he wakes up as an adult,

Josh (Will Collyer) has his hands full coping with life, his best

friend Billy (Sterling Beaumon), and a heartbroken mom (Lisa Picotte).

When he stumbles into a high-caliber job with a toy company, he catches

the eye of corporate -climber Susan (the outstanding Darrin Revitz) and

finds romance, but he ultimately discovers that life as a 13-year old

adult is not all that great. Israel has done a remarkable job staging

this piece on a small stage, and manages the large cast--which features

some fine adolescent actors and actresses -quite well. Christine

Lakin's choreography is polished and attractive, with many of the

dances evincing an edgy comic expressiveness. Musical director Daniel

Thomas does equally fine work. El Centro Theater, 800 N. El Centro

Ave.; Hlywd.;' Fri.-Sat., 8 pm., Sun., 3 pm., through June. 28. A West

Coast Ensemble production. (323) 460-4443. (Lovell Estell III)

Stage Raw: The Crucible

Big Photo by Ty Donaldson

BILL W. AND DR. BOB Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey's story of

Alcoholics Anonymous. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 3

p.m.; thru May 31. (323) 960-7827.

GO BRONZEVILLE Tim Toyama and Aaron Woolkfolk's

drama centers around the Goodwins, a black family looking for a new

life and respite from southern racism in Los Angeles during the early

years of WWII. After their move into a home (an artfully designed set

piece by J.P. Luckenbach) formerly occupied by a Japanese family that

was forced to relocate to a camp, all seems well. Mama Jane (CeCe

Antoinette) is the sharp-tongued, devout matriarch who loves to garden

and has vivid memories of life as a slave. Her son Felix (Larry

Powell), is young and angry, and has hopes of becoming a musician,

while his brother Jodie (Dwain A. Perry), is a simple working man with

a devoted wife (Adenrele Ojo) and teen daughter (Candice Afia). But the

Goodwin's soon discover that they have a "guest," when Henry (fine turn

by Jeff Manabat) tumbles into their midst, forming a bond with his new

family, but also forcing Jodie to make a troubling, fateful decision

that impacts the lives of everybody. Director Ben Guillory does a fine

job directing this provocative piece. Woolfolk and Toyama's script is

well written and subtly explores philosophical and moral issues that

are as relevant today as they were then. (LE3) Los Angeles Theater

Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru

May 17. (213) 489-0994. A Robey Theatre Company production.

THE COUNTRY WIFE William Wycherley's 1675 cuckold satire. Hayworth

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

thru May 30. (323) 969-1707.

NEW REVIEW GO THE CRUCIBLE In the days of HUAC and

Senator Joseph McCarthy, when it was dangerous for any left-leaning

writer to criticize government actions, playwright Arthur Miller

approached the subject indirectly, writing about the Salem Witch Trials

of 1692 as a metaphor for McCarthy's reckless accusations. But as this

illuminating production makes clear, the play remains eloquent and

relevant, and director Marianne Savell gives it a sharp new focus. In

addition to examining the plight of John and Elizabeth Proctor (Bruce

Ladd and Nan McNamara), both accused of witch-craft, she highlights two

of the accusers: The paranoid, egocentric, hysterical Reverend Parris

(Daniel J. Roberts) is ultimately destroyed by the madness he has

unleashed, while decent man-of-conscience Reverend Hale (Gary Clemmer)

believes the charges of witch-craft until it's too late to halt the

madness. The witch-hunt, launched by a toxic brew of superstition,

fear, lies, self-righteousness, and individual malice, becomes an

inexorable force, grinding up accusers and accused. Ladd and McNamara

deftly capture the flawed but powerful integrity of John and Elizabeth,

while Roberts and Clemmer subtly delineate the growing despair of the

two clergymen. They are given strong support by a huge and able cast.

Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower Street, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun.,

2:30 p.m.; additional Sat. matinee May 16, 2:30 p.m., thru June 7.

(323) 462-8460. (Neal Weaver)

Stage Raw: The Crucible


Photo courtesy of Actors Co-op

DADDY'S DYIN', WHO'S GOT THE WILL Director Jeff Murray has here

substituted the "white trash" clan in Del Shores' comedy about a

dysfunctional family in 1986 Texas with an African-American cast. For

most of the evening, it's funny watching this caustic mix of vipers

playing head games and sniping at each other. Shores

dialogue is blisteringly funny, but sometimes these qualities don't

emerge forcefully enough under Murray's understated direction. (LE3).

Theatre/Theater-Hollywood, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 31. (323) 954-9795.

DEAD, THEREFORE I AM Writer-director Max Leavitt's furious passion

project tracks a suicidal 30-year-old named John (Leavitt), who lives

in his parents' garage where he's haunted by Sophie (Karen Jean Olds)

-- the obsessive goth girl next door -- and the sniping Egyptian god

Anubis (Nicholas Tucci). John's depressed, and since he enters the play

with his head severed by a guillotine, we know things aren't going to

end well, especially as his coping mechanisms are booze, pills, and

screaming at Sophie and Anubis. Both have John in their bondage:

Sophie, because they're furtively, allegedly in love (though tenderness

is missing from all of their interactions), while Anubis has John on a

physical and emotional choke chain to train him into thinking his

miserable life is nothing more than a doorway to the underworld. With

its subtleties overwhelmed in histrionics, and its comedy made glum by

all Leavitt's sincere agony, this is still a work in progress -- a play

fumbling through the stressful business of discovering its strengths,

just like its protagonist. (AN) East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 24. (323)

960-7714.

GO THE DESIGNATED MOURNER Written in the dark days

when humanistic ideals seemed under siege by the barbarian imperatives

of globalization (a.k.a. the Clinton-Gingrich years), Wallace Shawn's

speculative fable is a pitch-black, comic lament for the demise of the

belletrist class. Set in a fictional land that seems strangely to

resemble New York, the play follows the travails of an aging literary

lion, Howard (Don Boughton), and his hero-worshiping daughter, Judy

(Sarah Boughton), as they and their genteel circle fall victim to a

fascistic regime. Telling their tale is the play's titular mourner,

Jack (Michael Kass), Judy's deceptively genial husband and one of the

pettiest, mean-spirited and most unreliable narrators in stage

literature. A member of Howard's inner circle by accident of marriage,

Jack is a hopeless lowbrow whose envy for his father-in-law's highbrow

stature soon turns into a toxic resentment as his own intellectual

limitations exclude him from Judy and Howard's rarified world. Director

Matthew McCray nimbly navigates a potentially unwieldy text --

essentially three interwoven monologues -- ably realizing all of

Shawn's famously acerbic wit and savage ironies. Kass's Jack is a

marvel of modulation as the affably sympathetic everyman of Act I

metamorphoses into the venomous, solipsistic scoundrel of Act II.

Equally fine is Sarah Boughton's sweetly captivating study in filial

fidelity. It is Don Boughton, however, with his mesmerizing portrait of

the play's deeply flawed patrician poet, who all but steals the show.

(BR) Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Mon.-Tues., Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sat., May 16, 3 p.m.; thru May 23. (213) 351-3507.

GO THE DEVIL WITH BOOBS Director Tom Quaintance and

his cast work theatrical magic with this superb staging of Dario Fo's

bawdy satire (in a finely tuned translation by Jon Laskin). Fo is as

much a prankster and polemicist as he is a playwright, all of these

aspects are richly displayed here. The action takes place in a town in

Northern Italy where fraud, corruption and vice run amok. However, the

staunchly upright Judge Alfonso de Tristano (Michael Winters) is a

light amidst the darkness, a, man so pure he recoils at the sight of a

pair of tits. This situation is intolerable to Master Devil Francipante

(the stellar and dangerously funny Phillip William Brock) and his

apprentice (Herschel Sparber), so they conspire to possess the judge's

body and spirit. Unfortunately, the plan backfires and the judge's

buxom housekeeper (Katherine Griffith) winds up playing host to the

devil, which causes an eruption of comedy, naughty bits, and mayhem.

Quaintance provides fluid, intelligent direction, but the cast is

flawlessly funny. Even the musical ditties scattered throughout are

nicely done (one such number by Brock had me laughing so hard I thought

I'd pass out). Cristina Wright's period costumes and puppets are a

riot, and Adam Rowe's set piece (composed almost exclusively of doors),

adds just the right touch. (LE3) Open Fist Theater, 6209 Santa Monica

Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m, Sun. 3 p.m. thru. May 16. (323)

882- 6912.

GO DIVORCE! THE MUSICAL Erin Kamler's witty and

entertaining new musical satire (for which she wrote the music, the

lyrics and the book) takes apart almost every emotional phase of a

marital breakup, including the horrors of dating and the hollows of

rebound sex, and sets it to chirpy and wry songs that feature some

sophisticated musical juxtapositions and harmonies. (Musical direction

and arrangements by David O) Kamler skirts the apparent danger of

triteness (setting a too familiar circumstance to music) by cutting

beneath the veneer of gender warfare. This is a study of the decaying

partnership of a resentful Brentwood radiologist (Rick Segall) and his

aspiring actress wife (Lowe Taylor), goaded by their respective

attorneys. The lawyers are the villains here - one (Gabrielle Wagner),

a Beverly Hills shark, the other (Leslie Stevens), a swirl of confusion

from her own recent divorce and now "temporarily" based in Studio City.

These vultures collude to distort the grievances of their clients, who

both actually care about their exes, and would be better off without

"representation." They might even remain married, the musical implies.

Director Rick Sparks gets clean, accomplished performances from his

five-person ensemble (that also includes Gregory Franklin, as the

Mediator - i.e. host of an absurdist game show.) Danny Cistone's cubist

set with rolling platforms masks the live three-piece band, parked

behind the action: This includes the ex-groom's impulsive decision,

based in his lawyer's misinformation, to removal all furniture from his

home, where he ex-bride continues to live -- only to find his bank

accounts and credit cards frozen. In the song, "We Stuck It Out,"

there's a kind of Sondheimian ennui to the verities of life-long

partnerships. The song is ostensibly an homage to his parents, in whose

basement he winds up living. As the Brits would say, marriage is bloody

hard work. (SLM) Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd.,

Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; indef. (323) 960-1056.

DOLORES Edward Allen Baker's dark comedy about two abused sisters.

Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., May 17, 8 p.m..

(323) 960-7822.

EL OGRITO (THE OGRELING) Suzanne Lebeau's coming-of-age story about

a half-human, half-ogre boy. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St.,

L.A.; Sat., May 16, 1 p.m.; Sat., May 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Sat.,

May 30, 1 p.m.; Sat., June 6, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., June

20, 3 p.m.; thru June 21, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/63302. (213)

745-6516.

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

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

934-9700.

EURYDICE The myth of Orpheus and his bride, told from Eurydice's

perspective, by Sarah Ruhl. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd.,

L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 960-7726.

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

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

whose lives overlap as they deal with addiction, temptation, and

realization. Mary (Alice Dodd) and David (Ron Morehouse) live in the

shadow of a mountain of boxes belonging to Mary's deceased mother, who

was violently abused by her husband. David's high school buddy Richard

(David Wilcox) and his wife Sylvia (Amanda Street) experiment with

designer drugs, frequent clubs, and engage in cyber sex. When Mary

becomes a victim of violence while taking a walk, she becomes hell bent

on fighting back and joins a boxing gym where she is trained by D.C.

(Richard Werner). As Mary and David's marriage falls apart, David,

chasing youth and excitement, becomes enmeshed in the lives of Richard

and Sylvia, sinking into their drug-addled lifestyle. Director Larissa

Kokernot employs projections creatively, but she fails to get much

emotion from her cast and certain choices, such as on-stage costume

changes and a naturalistic cooking scene, are more confusing than

anything. Despite the accomplishments and lengthy resumes of the

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

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

ideas and images that remains beyond recognition. (MK) Theater of NOTE,

1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

through May 30. (323) 856-8611. www.theatreofnote.com.

GROUNDLINGS ENCHANTED FOREST All-new sketch and improv, directed by

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

Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru July 18. (323) 934-9700.

HALF OF PLENTY Lisa Dillman's satire of modern life, lean times and

neighborhood watch. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 21,

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

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

GO HOWLIN' BLUES AND DIRTY DOGS The spirit of the

blues pulsates resoundingly throughout this stirring musical based on

the life of feisty, soulful singer Big Mama Thornton. The strengths in

class-act vocalist Barbara Morrison's performance lie not in her effort

to re-create the historical woman but in her expressionistic portrayal

of this talented but troubled figure's essence, captured in Morrison's

earthy, heartrending vocals. Carla DuPree Clark directs a top-notch

supporting ensemble, and the music is simply topflight. (DK). Stella

Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.,

May 16, 8 p.m.; thru May 16. (310) 462-1439.

GO

THE IDEA MAN Kevin King's comedy-drama about class conflict in a small

manufacturing firm. Elephant Theatre Company, 6322 Santa Monica

Boulevard, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through June 6. (323)

960-4410. See Theater Feature.  

Stage Raw: The Crucible

The Idea Man Photo by Lindsay Allbaugh

MEASURE FOR MEASURE Write Act Repertory re-imagines Shakespeare's

play. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

thru May 23. (323) 469-3113.

GO MUNCHED Katie Paxton's two older sisters died

before she was born. When she became deathly ill, the nurses and the

law were convinced that her mother Marybeth (Andrea Hutchman) was

killing her slowly in a sordid, attention-seeking case of Munchhausen

by Proxy. Marybeth went to prison; Katie (Samantha Sloyan) recovered

immediately and went into the foster system. Kim Porter's spellbinding

and intimate play catches up with the Paxtons 20-years later when Katie

finds a Pandora's box of letters, from her mom and to her mom, in her

foster mother's attic. We're never sure if Marybeth is guilty, though

she admits to giving her daughter a poisonous dose of ipecac. But what

is clear is that mother and daughter share the same DNA -- both face

the world with a bitter humor, Katie joking wryly about wrenching

trauma, and Marybeth channeling her self-righteous anger into a sarcasm

as sharp as a knife. Sloyan and Hutchman turn in two of the best

performances I've seen all year. Aided by Duane Daniels' direction,

they make comic agony out of deliberate pauses and askance smiles.

Shirley Jordan and Peter Breitmayer are quite fine as a whirlwind of

nurses, doctors, lawyers and do-gooders, each with their own agenda,

and unable to see the facts of Marybeth's actions through their

certainty of her psychosis or martyrdom. (AN) El Centro Theatre, 804 N.

El Centro Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 30. (323)

960-5771.

OCHRE & ONYX: THE LANGSTON HUGHES PROJECT Lynn Manning's

celebration of the Harlem Renissance writer. Los Angeles Design Center,

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

31. (323) 599-0811.

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

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

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

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

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

GO PHOTOGRAPH 51 This West Coast premiere of Anna

Ziegler's powerful yet subtle play, Photograph 51, concerns Rosalind

Franklin, the scientist who was instrumental in the discovery of the

structure of DNA. Set against Travis Gale Lewis' cleverly accretive set

and illuminated by Kathi O'Donohue's complex and variegated lighting,

the play takes us into a seminal period in biophysics. No sooner are we

introduced to Rosalind (Aria Alpert), her colleague Dr. Wilkins (Daniel

Billet), and her graduate assistant Maurice Gosling (Graham Norris)

than Rosalind declares in no uncertain terms, "Dr. Wilkins, I don't do

jokes. I do science." Her confidence and professionalism leads to an

uncomfortable friction with Wilkins and the rest of the chauvinistic

male scientific establishment, including Watson (Ian Gould) and Crick

(Kerby Joe Grubb), who are simultaneously in search of the genetic

blueprint. While Rosalind remains the consummate professional, even

cold at times, she does reveal slivers of her inner life through

correspondence with American scientist Don Casper (Ross Hellwig). As

each side gets closer to the genetic blueprint, one of Rosalind's

photographs ends up becoming crucial to unlocking the mystery. Director

Simon Levy efficiently orchestrates the manipulation of time and space,

turning vast leaps into imperceptible segues, and inspiring powerful

performances from his actors. The entire cast sparkles behind Alpert,

whose portrayal of Rosalind's ruthless efficiency, biting wit, and deep

pain is a tour de force that brings to mind Meryl Streep's take on Anna

Wintour. This tribute to a woman who helped crack the Pyrex ceiling

reminds us of the need to reexamine "his"tory, and should not be

missed. (MK)The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 31. (323) 663-1525.

PLAY WITH A KNIFE Zach Fehst's existential take on murder. Stages

Theatre Center, 1540 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru May

31. (323) 960-7784.

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless

skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary

Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an

audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's

damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and

George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.

THE REAL THING "Loving and being loved is so illiterate," sighs

playwright Henry (Jay Huguley) in Tom Stoppard's dramedy about

commitment to your amour and emotions. Henry boasts that he's too

superior to feel jealousy; his confusion at being cuckolded is

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

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

earnest love story for his new actress wife (Susan Duerden), and

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

any potential weaknesses. Luckily, such meanderings are few. Before

long, Henry's loudmouthed cynicism eases into a convincing case that

he's the last romantic in England. The brittle wit of the first act

softens after intermission when a tenderized Henry offers his

definition of fidelity. However, to breathe, these observations need a

light, deft touch. Instead director Allen Barton instead cranks up the

emotionalism, even ending several scenes in a deafening climax of

screams and music. Whatever Huguley is bellowing at the ceiling is

drowned out in the fury, a misstep for a play that worships the power

of words. (AN) Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 7. (323) 960-7861. A

Katselas Company production

NEW REVIEW GO

RICHARD III REDUX: OUR RADICAL ADAPTATION The radical part of this

stylish, modern-dress patchwork isn't so much in director John

Farmanesh-Bocca's decision to preface Richard III with a flashback

version of its chronological antecedent, Henry VI, Part 3. Nor is it in

the procrustean condensation required to fit both plays into an evening

that clocks in at a mere 100 minutes. What is radical is the Veterans

Center for the Performing Arts production's argument that doing so

makes for a more sympathetic, emotionally traumatized Richard (Stephan

Wolfert). If the case isn't airtight, blame Shakespeare -- even

Clarence Darrow would cop a plea before the persuasive power with which

the Bard prosecutes his most irredeemably sociopathic of stage

villains. That the effort proves such a rollicking good time is

strictly the fault of Farmanesh-Bocca and his iridescent ensemble (ably

lit by Randy Brumbaugh). Wolfert's antic performance as the crookbacked

usurper is almost Lon Chaneyesque in it's physical dimensions,

confidently spanning the valiant defender of York honor in Henry and

the gleefully scheming gargoyle of Richard. Bruce Cervi and Tim

Halligan provide nuanced support as Richard's ill-fated brothers caught

in the crosshairs of dynastic ambition, while the versatile Carvell

Wallace inflects the conspiratorial Buckingham with a distinctly

Kissingerian menace. The best reason for this redux, however, may be

Lisa Pettett's tantalizing turn as Queen Margaret, a portrayal of

matriarchal political manipulation right out of The Manchurian

Candidate. Mortise & Tenon Furniture Store, Second Floor, 446 S. La

Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., Sun., 8 p.m.; thru June 8. (888) 398-9348. A

Veterans Center for the Performing Arts production. (Bill Raden)

R.U.R. Czech playwright Karel Capek's 1921 sci-fi horror-show is

about people's desire to outsource drudge labor to robots, which are

created (birthed in test tubes) by the thousands in a factory where the

play transpires. A woman named Helena Glory crosses the ocean to defend

the rights of robots in a satire of the early trade union movement. On

the Island of Rossum (reason), which houses the factory, she meets and

eventually marries the factory's general manager, Harry Domin (Jamil

Chokachi). That the robots don't feel anything, and that the humans can

benefit from so much leisure time, i.e. unemployment, is an early 20th

century glimpse into precisely the gaffes of economic logic that have

landed us in the mire of the early 21st century: If people aren't

employed, how exactly are they supposed to buy the things that the

cheap and/or outsourced labor produces? The other side of the play's

equation points to the slippery grip we have on what it means to be

human. Adapter Tiger Reel directs a large ensemble, and stages the play

on his and Tom Metcalf's set that features a pair of large screens that

mask, translucently, bubbling gelatinous blobs - future workers in a

kind of uterus, blood surging, muscles being formed -

Frankenstein-like. The intrusions of one scientist lead to more

"perfect" robots with emotions, which means they finally realize their

oppression, and they rise into revolution, turning against their

creators. The large ensemble is mostly fine, but Reel has a better eye

than ear. When the melodrama of the robot takeover kicks in, it's hard

to discern whether or not the hand-wringing tone is a parody or merely

overwrought. When the humans jump around robotically, Reel scores

points for concept, but loses points for the emotional ligaments of

storytelling. Chokachi's Harry Domin was so intense, screaming a good

many of his lines, he had me rooting for the robots. At least the

machines are comparatively quiet, and they don't overact. Particularly

deft performances by Tee Williams, Vera Miao and Jennifer Gabbert.

(SLM) Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; added perf Sun., May 10, 6 p.m.; through May 16. (323)

908-7276.

SETUP & PUNCH A pair of Broadway composers are forced to

collaborate with a rock star, in Mark Saltzman's comedy. The Blank

Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru June 21. (323) 661-9827.

THE SHAPE OF THINGS Explore art, psychopathy, love and intimacy in

Neil LaBute's drama centering on the lives of four young students who

become emotionally and romantically involved with each other. L.A.

Fringe Theatre, 929 E. Second St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May

23. (213) 680-0392.

SIX STRANGE TALES OF LOVE Sy Rosen and Katie Echevarria Rosen's

one-acts on the many incarnations of love. Gardner Stages, 1501 N.

Gardner St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 30. (818) 685-9939.

SO HARD: A BLACK GAY MAN NAVIGATES WEST HOLLYWOOD IN A NEW AMERICA

Derek Ringold's "multiple-threat" performance mixes monologue, dance

and video. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru

May 27. (323) 623-9036.

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

assortment of new, short plays from Padraic Duffy, Joshua Fardon, Carey

Friedman, Nova Jacobs, David LM McIntyre and Tommy Smith, punctuated by

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

the performances. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.;

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

GO STICK FLY Lydia R. Diamond's scintillating

comedy is set in the elegant and expensive summer home (gorgeously

designed by John Iacovelli) of Dr. Joseph Levay (John Wesley), in an

elite, African-American enclave of Martha's Vineyard. The family is

arriving for the weekend, and son Flip (Terrell Tilford), a successful

plastic surgeon, is bringing his white fiancée Kimber (Avery Clyde) to

meet the family. Writer son Kent (Chris Butler) also brings his

bride-to be, Taylor (Michole Briana White), who comes from a lower rung

on the social ladder. At first all is banter, horse-play and fun, but

gradually fracture lines appear. Despite their wealth and privilege,

the Levays are not immune to the stresses and prejudices of snobbery,

race and class, conflicts between fathers and sons, and brotherly

rivalries. Mom hasn't turned up for the family gathering, and secrets

about sexual hanky-pank lurk beneath the surface, waiting to erupt.

Meanwhile, young substitute maid-housekeeper Cheryl (Tinashe Kajese) is

seriously upset about something. Diamond's play combines complex

characters, provocative situations, and literate, funny dialog in this

delicious comedy of contemporary manners. Director Shirley Joe Finney

reveals a sharp eye for social nuance, and melds her dream cast into a

brilliantly seamless ensemble. They are all terrific. (NW) The Matrix

Theatre Company, 7657 Melrose Avenue, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 3

p.m., thru May 31. (323) 960-7740.

GO TENNESSEE WILLIAMS UNSCRIPTED The audiences

tosses in a couple of suggestions at the start of the show, from which

Impro Theater spins a full-length improvised drama in the style of

Tennessee Williams. Clearly the types are pre-set. Floyd Van Buskirk's

"Daddy" is a compendium of Night of the Iguana's ex-Reverend T.

Lawrence Shannon and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof's Big Daddy. Director Brian

Lohmann's Marquis is a flat-footed, slightly neurotic fellow tossed out

of service in WWII by a 4F army classification. His withering

self-respect gets crushed beneath the boot of Buddy (Dan O'Connor),

home from the service and suffering from post-traumatic stress

disorder. There's an off-stage Veteran's Day Parade for atmosphere (one

of the audience suggestions was "November," so there you go.) Tenderly

comedic performances also by Jo McKinley as the repressed Widow Oleson

and by Tracy Burns as the town slut Loretta, and especially by Lisa

Fredrickson as the smart, aging romantic, Charlene. Is there any hope

of enduring romance in this isolated mushpot of Williams' universe? The

company guides the drama into a savvy bitter-sweet resolution. This is

a tougher challenge than the company's prior effort, Jane Austen

Unscripted, because the types of repression that form the essences of

the comedy are comparatively languid in Williams, whereas the Austen

sendup sprung from the starched collars and feelings that couldn't be

expressed - because that would have been impolite. Williams' characters

say what's on the mind, usually two or three times in various poetical

incarnations: That's the detail that these actors nail on the head.

Once that joke has arrived, the challenge is to avoid making a glib

mockery of Williams' drawling explications and the sometimes ham-fisted

poetry. It's a trap the company studiously avoids, so that the event

lingers somewhere between satire and homage. It's a very smart choice.

Nice cameo also by Nick Massouh. (SLM) Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa

Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through May

31. (800) 838-3006. An Impro Theater production

13 BY SHANLEY FESTIVAL Seven full-length plays and six one-acts by

John Patrick Shanley. (Weekly schedule alternates; call for info.).

Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., Sun., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2

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

TNA ONESIES: THE FUTURE? The Next Arena's fourth annual comedy

one-act festival. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 23. (323) 960-5774.

THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton,

Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for

Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323)

960-7785.

GO VOICE LESSONS Justin Tanner's very funny sitcom

shoots darts at a trio of characters who are tied to the dart board by

their transparent lunacies and hubris, which makes it an exercise in

almost pointless cruelty, though the broadness of Bart DeLorenzo's

staging may have contributed to the sense of this Punch & Judy Show

masquerading as a satire. In earlier plays, like Pot Mom,

Tanner stumbled onto an insight that unearthed the unseen side of a

stereotype. His skills at structure, one-liners and caricature are so

sharply honed, his persisting challenge is finding something worth

saying. Tanner's parody is directed at the vicious and deluded vanity

of a hopelessly obviously talentless and aging pop singer, Virginia

(Laurie Metcalf), trying to claw her way to TV fame. Can a target get

any easier? She cements her ambitions to a voice teacher, Nate (French

Stewart), whose initial mask of respectability and ethics slithers down

the greasy pole of his own personal desperation. Maile Flanagan further

inflates the farce, portraying Nate's zaftig live-in girlfriend,

setting up a catfight over the forlorn and increasingly sleazy teacher.

For all its petulant ambitions, the evening is wildly entertaining

thanks to the irrepressible talents of the cast. It's hard to see how

this play would survive without these actors. With a deep and slightly

nasal voice, and deadpan responses that should be copyrighted for the

mountain of silent thoughts they reveal, Stewart provides the perfect

foil for Metcalf's meticulously executed tornado of psychosis and

Flanagan's lovely cameo. DeLorenzo deserves credit for the comedy's

sculpted timing, and Gary Guidinger's set and lighting depicts with

realistic detail the frayed fortress of Nate's living room. (SLM)

Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

7 p.m.; through May 17. (323) 960-7711.

WILDWOOD: A WESTERN FABLE Wild West saloon turns 99-seat theater in

Tom Patrick's parody. Hayworth Studio, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sun.,

7 p.m.; thru May 31, wildwoodawesternfable@gmail.com. (213) 389-9860.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEY

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

to get to the Oscars. Stillspeaking Theatre, 2560 Huntington Dr., San

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

BENEATH RIPPLING WATER Sybyl Walker portrays three women in love.

Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Through May

16, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 3 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.

GO THE BIRD AND MR. BANKS Alternately ghoulish and

sweet, playwright Kevin Huff's darkly ironic tale is a pleasingly

twisted mix of romance and Grand Guignol horror. After she's dumped by

her louse-lover boss (Chet Grissom), corporate secretary Annie (Jenny

Kern) tries to kill herself. She receives emotional support from a

co-worker - the soft spoken, eerily staring accountant, Mr. Banks (Sam

Anderson), whom the other folks in the office have long considered

slightly creepy. After she moves into Mr. Banks' sprawling, dusty

house, Annie discovers that the co-workers don't know the half of it.

Still attached by a cast iron Oedipal apron string to parents long

since dead, Banks has furnished the home in a dusty style that can

charitably be called "Norman Bates Modern." When Annie's boss stops by

and attempts to rape her, Banks pulls out a cudgel and events take a

gruesome turn. Although the plot slightly bogs down during a needlessly

long Act Two road trip, Huff's writing is otherwise smartly edgy, full

of vituperative charm. Director Mark St. Amant's comedically tight

production punches the weird, Addams Familytone with brio,

nicely balancing horror with genuine sympathy for the characters. From

his deep, soft, insanity-steeped voice to his shambolic gait and his

half baked "drunk crazy uncle" stage persona, Anderson's turn as the

crazed killer-accountant is utterly compelling. (PB) Lankershim Arts

Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

2 p.m.; through May 16. (866) 811-4111. Road Theater Production.

GO CAPTAIN DAN DIXON VS. THE MOTH SLUTS FROM THE

FIFTH DIMENSON The Magellan spaceship has a conservative crew onboard,

but Captain Dan Dixon (Matthew Sklar) and the rest of his men can't

resist the Vulvulans green, pasties-clad go-go dancers

with pneumatic exoskeletons. Playwright Sklar and director Zombie Joe

know the heart of their show beats near the Vulvulans' gyrating curves,

but they've generously gone on and given us sharp comic timing and even

a half-serious philosophical theme. (AN). ZJU Theater Group, 4850

Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru May 16.

(818) 202-4120.

GO THE COLUMBINE PROJECT Marking its 10th

anniversary, writer-director Paul Storiale's involving play explores

the personalities and circumstances surrounding the Columbine high

school massacre of April 20, 1999. After planting bombs, which

fortunately did not detonate, two teenagers, Eric Harris (Artie Ahr)

and Dylan Klebold (Justin Mortelliti) shot and killed 12 other students

and a teacher, then turned their guns on themselves Unveiling the story

in non-sequential scenes, the script recreates the elements of the

tragedy. Portraying not only the relationship between the perpetrators

and their prior disturbed behavior (Harris laid out their plans on his

website but they were never taken seriously), it also spotlights their

devastated parents and some of the innocent victims. Among them was

Rachel Scott (Rya Meyers), a popular girl and self-identified Christian

who went out of her way to befriend the outcasts within the school

body, where anyone who wasn't a jock was ridiculed. Transcending

melodrama, the play delivers a nuanced account of the whole horrific

event. Portraying the banality of evil is not easy, and Ahr does a

scrupulous job imparting layers to the menacing Harris. Mortelliti

communicates Klebold's precarious volatility, while Meyers, sweet

without being saccharine, exudes a lovely presence. Other strong

performances include Kelli Joan Bennett as Harris's mom, crushed with

remorse, and Marquerite Wiseman as another grief-stricken parent.

Production values are minimal but this is one of those barebones

productions in which the drama needs no further embellishment. (DK)

Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun, May 12, 7 p.m. thru May 16. (818) 766-9100.

NEW REVIEW COURTING

VAMPIRES Far from the traditional fare surrounding the fanged denizens

of the dark, this world premiere from playwright Laura Schellhardt

explores the mindscape of straight-laced Rill Archer (Carey Peters) a

woman whose free-spirited younger sister Nina (Maya Lawson) becomes

seduced by a vampire named Jim Slade (Bo Foxworth, who plays all of the

males roles).  Seeking justice and solace, Rill, dressed in robotic

gray, retells the sequence of events that led to the seduction,

skipping around in time and space while revealing the sisters'

relationships with each other, their father, and Rill's coworker Gill. 

Set against Kurt Boetcher's set design that resembles a giant file

cabinet, and complemented by Tim Swiss' lighting design, the scenes in

the courtroom of Rill's mind are by turns funny and gravely serious,

exploring the characters' fears, desires and inhibitions.  Schellhardt

is clearly accomplished, penning lines chock full of witty lingual

gymnastics and unique turns of phrase.  Kubzansky sets the bar high as

usual, ensuring that her actors navigate the complex rhythms of the

text and carve out their characters in sharp relief.  The cast members

too are talented and faithfully trace the twists and turns of their

characters, especially Foxworth whose multiple roles are clearly

defined.  Unfortunately, the whole doesn't end up equaling the sum of

its parts, leaving the audience with numerous great moments that don't

fuse into a powerful or coherent story. Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N.

Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through June

7.  (626) 683-6883. (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO DRACULA Director Ken Sawyer, who recently helmed

the delightful Lovelace: A Rock Opera at the Hayworth, has scored again

with this stylish adaptation of Bram Stoker's vampire tale. Co-writers

Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston's liberties they take on the

story in now way diminish the quality of the production. Robert

Arbogast is splendid as the creepy count, first seen rising from his

grave to put the bite on the lovely Mina (Mara Marini), upon his

arrival in England. When Lucy Seward (Darcy Jo Martin), contacts a

mysterious illness, her mother, Lily (Karesa McElheny), who runs an

asylum, enlists the expertise of Abraham Van Helsing (Joe Hart) to find

a cure. Thrown into the mix are Lucy's betrothed Jonathan Harker (J.R.

Mangels) and the mad, bug-eating Renfield (Alex Robert Holmes). This

one's all about atmosphere. Desma Murphy's alluring set design is

cleverly accented by an enormous backdrop of an incubus sitting on a

sleeping woman, inspired by Henry Fuseli's painting "The Nightmare."

Luke Moyer's lighting schema is perfectly conceived. Sawyer uses an

arsenal of haunted house special effects here, including lots of

rolling fog and wolf howls, but they never come across as cheesy or

overdone; and there are a few scary moments during this 90-minute show,

amidst the well-placed humor. (LE3) NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia

Blvd.; N. Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 17.

(818) 508-7101.

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

patients. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 24,

www.plays411.com/freudrevolts. (818) 720-2009.

GOTHMAS Kerr Seth Lordygan and Laura Lee Bahr's goth (or really, nu

metal) musical opens on Halloween when depressive Helena (Bahr) slits

her wrists. The debut production itself would benefit from its own

cruel cuts. At its black, festering, wonderful heart, Gothmasis

a love triangle between self-absorbed best frenemy roommates -- hetero

Helena, gay Garth (Lordygan) and their selfish bisexual hustler lover

Joe (Kadyr Gutierrez, who capitalizes on the duo's need for freakdom by

suggesting they share him. Clocking in at three-hours, this bleak charm

of this 12-member ensemble's behemoth would be better served if every

element were chopped in half. There's a fantastic piece buried in here,

especially once director Justin T. Bowler doubles the cast's narcissism

and hysteria, which would help the play find consistent footing between

songs that ache with betrayal and ones that sting with unrepentant,

grim glee. (And once Joel Rieck's choreography eases away from the

literal -- when Helena sings she's got "nothing to lose, nothing to

grab," the entire cast clutches at the air.) This run is worth seeing,

however, as a midnight cult fave-in-process with some inspired axe

murders. (AN) Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd.,

Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 17. (323)

960-7712.

INSIDE PRIVATE LIVES Audience members interact with infamous or

celebrated personages from the 20th century, as re-created in a series

of monologues. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South

Pasadena; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 28, www.insideprivatelives.com. (866)

811-4111.

MR. MARMALADE Noah Haidle's black comedy about a 4-year-old girl's

imaginary friend, a combative, cocaine-fueled porn addict. Two Roads

Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; thru May 17. (800) 838-3006.

NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY Detective chases serial killer in this

musical adaptation of William Goldman's novel. Book, music and lyrics

by Douglas J. Cohen. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Toluca Lake;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 17. (818) 558-7000.

NOSTALGIA AND DREAMS White Buffalo Theatre Company presents Brett

Holland's poetic drama. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North

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

RICHARD II The Porters of Hellsgate take on Shakespeare's doomed

king. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North

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

761-0704.

TEN TO LIFE As Lodestone Theatre Ensemble prepares to close its

doors after 10 years, it will present four one-acts from veteran

writers of its own ranks (Nic Cha Kim, Annette Lee, Tim Lounibos, and

Judy Soo Hoo). GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Toluca Lake;

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

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's comedy

classic about a kooky clan. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre

Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru June 6.

(626) 256-3809.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCEDS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

THE ACCOMPLICES Bernard Weinraub's documentary drama about an

activist's efforts to rescue Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe. Odyssey

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

p.m.; thru June 14. (310) 477-2055.

APPLE Emotional bonfires crackle around the infidelity of an

ordinary, married guy, Andy (Albie Selznick), with a beautiful woman,

Samatha (Carmit Levité), who just happens to be a medical technician

whom Andy's wife, Evelyn (Ellyn Stern), sees frequently during her

breast-cancer diagnoses and treatments. Evelyn is dying, there's no

question, and her philandering husband lies stretched on a rack of

grief and self-loathing - careening between his physical passion for

his healthy mistress and his torment as a care-taker for his fading

wife. Does his expressed adoration of his spouse stem from something

larger than guilt and self-recrimination? gI'm rotten,h he confesses

to her. She knows what's going on, and thank goodness she's no peach

herself. Foul-mouthed and sometimes petulant, she reveals a

mean-streak, telling hubbie that she never loved him. That could be

true, but it's more likely to be the only kind of revenge she can

inflict. The larger question explored in Canadian Vern Thiessen's

absorbing play hangs in the murky territory between lust and love, and

Rachel Goldberg's wisely abstracted and seductive production tries to

clarify that distinction, despite stretches of gratuitous poetical

narration that tilt the tone towards the mawkish. Jeff G. Rack's park

bench set and the projected images of Benjamin Goldman's animation

design contribute to the sense of a poem in motion. On opening night,

the ensemble was just starting to find the play's unspoken truths, and

will doubtless unearth more through the production's run. Levité's

smart, charming mistress finds herself smitten with Andy for reasons

still vague, though in one scene at the clinic, her defiant defense of

Evelyn's wishes, overriding Andy's will, could be a kind of punishment

of him. Stern's ill Evelyn is further along, handily negotiating cross

currents of wisdom and peevishness, while Selznick nicely handles

Andy's sometimes cloying yet convincing earnestness and he tries to man

up. The production invites easy moralizing, though there is the

suggestion that the vow gtill death do us parth probably shouldn't be

rushed along - the parting or the dying. (SLM) Theatre 40, 241 Moreno

Dr. (on the Beverly Hills High School Campus), Beverly Hills; in rep,

call for schedule; through May 24. (310) 364-0535.

CINDERELLA: THE MUSICAL Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie's

family-friendly fairy tale. (Resv. required.). Santa Monica Playhouse,

1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Dec.

27. (310) 394-9779.

DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK? Writer/performer Aaron Braxton has passion

and talent - both amply evident in this promising work-in-progress

about the difficulties of teaching in the urban classroom. A 13-year

veteran with L.A. Unified, Braxton builds his piece around his early

experience as a substitute teacher filling in for an old-timer - 33

years on the job - who one day ups and quits. A gift for mimicry brings

the performer's characters into clear comic focus: himself as the

beleaguered Mr. Braxton, several colorful problem students, their even

more colorful and problematic parents and another staff member -- a

well-meaning elderly bureaucrat in charge of the school's

counterproductive testing program. At times Braxton steps away from

dramatizing the action to speak to the audience directly about the

frustrations of trying to make a difference, contrasting his own

upbringing as the son of a teacher, taught to respect education, with

the imperviously disdainful attitude of his pupils. He also sings 4

songs, displaying a beautiful voice. The main problem with the piece is

its disjointedness and discontinuity; the songs, reflective of

Braxton's message, are only tenuously connected to the narrative,

itself a patchwork collection of anecdotes juxtaposed against addresses

to the audience. This gives the show a hybrid feel - part performance,

part moral exposition, part musical showcase. Yet there's plenty of

power and potential here. Kathleen Rubin directs. (DK) Beverly Hills

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

through April 18. (310) 358-9936.

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

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

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

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

FIFTH OF JULY Lanford Wilson's farm-family drama. Long Beach

Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru May 23. (562) 494-1014.

HAY FEVER Noel Coward's 1924 comedy. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre

St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 7 p.m.; Thurs., May

21, 8 p.m.; thru May 23. (310) 512-6030.

HELLO HERMAN John Buffalo Mailer's multimedia examination of

violence and fame. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa

Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 23. (310) 392-7327.

INCORRUPTABLE Michael Hollinger's Dark Ages farce. (In rep with Apple,

call for schedule). Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241

Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Sun., 2 p.m.; Mon.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2

& 8 p.m.; thru May 21. (310) 364-0535.

NEW REVIEW GO

IS HE DEAD? Mark Twain's farce, here adapted by David Ives, follows the

imagined plight of painter Jean-Francois Millet (Perry Ojeda) - whose

works loom over Stephen Gifford's stylish and utilitarian set design.

("The Gleaners" is probably Millet's most famous painting, capturing

the rustic humanity of French peasants working in the fields.) A young

artist named Agamemnon Buckner (Brian Stanton) helps fathom the plot to

help generate income for a garret of young starving artists in a

province outside Paris in 1846. If they can spread the news that Millet

is near death, and about to expire, the value of his paintings could go

through the roof - as opposed to lying in their current marsh while the

painter is known to be alive. So Millet fakes his own illness and

death, returning into society in drag as his own  grieving sister. Mr.

Millet leaves behind an equally grieving sweetheart, Marie  Leroux

(Suzanne Petrela) whose failure to recognize her beaux-in-a-dress adds

to the farce. Stir in a villain plucked from melodrama - an art dealer,

naturally - named Bastien Andre (Steve Marvel) who tries to usurp the

"dead" painter's works in exchange for the exorbitant interest he's

owed on a loan he made to Millet. Joe Fria is marvelously, physically

odd in an array of roles, prancing with his rear-end extended backward

and out of joint, in roles ranging from Englishmen to the King of

France. By Act 2,  Gifford's set has melted into a series of doors

lining the back of the stage - all there to be slammed. During one

entrance, poor Buckner got stuck when he slammed a door upon entering,

leaving his coattails jammed in the now shut door. It just took a

second of him groping helplessly for forward motion before he realized

his plight, re-opened the door behind him and set himself free, while

the audience was dissolved in paroxysms of laughter.  Even the planned

humor, under Shashin Desai's gorgeous staging, was a bouquet of

completely stupid wit, based on mistaken identities a coffin filled

with bricks and pungent lindberger cheese, in order to fool the

authorities. Millet, pretending to be his own sister, meets his

oblivious sweetheart and plants on her a lingering kiss. Goodness,

Marie exclaims, after this seeming display of lesbian lust, "You must

stop smoking."  International City Theatre in the Long Beach Performing

Arts Center, 300 East Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 24. (562) 436-4610. (Steven Leigh Morris)
 

Stage Raw: The Crucible

Is He Dead Photo by Shashin Desai

MADE ME NUCLEAR On March 1, 2006, singer-songwriter Charlie Lustman

was informed by his doctor that he had a rare OsteoSarcoma (bone

cancer) of the upper jaw. What followed was a grueling and painful

siege of therapies, involving radiation injected into his body, surgery

removing three quarters of his jawbone, surgical reconstruction, and

extensive chemotherapy. When, after two years of treatment, he was

declared cancer free, he created this touching 12-song cycle about his

experiences. He sings about the bone-numbing shock and terror of being

told he had cancer, his fear of death and sense of helplessness, the

solace provided him by his loyal wife, his children and his doctors,

memory problems caused by his chemo (mercifully temporary), and so on.

But the tone is more celebratory than grim: he's determinedly

life-affirming, full of hope and gratitude, and his songs are pitched

in an intimate, jazzy, bluesy style. He's an engaging and personable

performer (thanks in part to his skillful doctors), who brings rueful

humor and mischief to a tale that might have been unrelievedly grim. If

anything, tries a bit too hard to keep things light. We need a bit of

scarifying detail if we're to appreciate his remarkable resilience and

optimism. (NW) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., through May 30. (866) 468-3399 or

http://www.MadeMeNuclear.com Produced by the Sarcoma Alliance.

NEW REVIEW

A NUMBER A widower (John Heard) discovers that a hospital has bred

clones of his bachelor son (the aptly named Steve Cell), making him a

father to an unknown number of identical young men. The son, Bernard,

is confused, but open to meeting his brothers; the dad immediately

cries "lawsuit!" allowing playwright Caryl Churchill to plunge

straightaway into her themes about the boundaries, rights, and values

of an identity. (And when Bernard suspects he's not the original, is

that even worse?) Churchill argues that personality is separate from

genetics and introduces us to three Bernards as distinct as Goldilocks'

bears: one bitter, one sweet, and one conflicted. Cell plays all three,

and it's hard not to interpret director Bart DeLorenzo's decision to

signify the role-switching by having Cell button, unbutton, or strip

off his overshirt as a lack of trust either in the performer or the

audience. Their father is clearly hiding a secret, and Heard captures

him as a man defeated before the play even begins -- he resolves every

confrontation by telling the Bernards what they want to hear. If there

is one truth under his lies, it'd be the play's only singularity: While

the clones share a disgust for him, it springs from different reasons.

"You don't look at me the same way," the widower says of how he tells

them apart. But unlike him, we never see the clones or their father as

people, only players in a fable that's constrained by the very

dichotomies it wants to explore. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda

Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 21. (310)

477-2055. (Amy Nicholson)
 
NEW REVIEW GO

OUR TOWN Upon learning that one of L.A.'s most daring theater

companies, The Actors' Gang, is tackling Thornton Wilder's beloved

three-act stage perennial about life, love, and death, anticipation is

keen to witness the group's "take" on the play's universal themes. 

This play is, after all, the hoop through which almost every high

school theater department must jump.  Interestingly enough, director

Justin Zsebe's interpretation in his intimate yet powerful production

is one of surprising and sincere faithfulness to the play's tone and

mood. This is a beautifully rendered and moving Our Town.  Narrated by

Stephen M. Porter's genial yet crusty Stage Manager, the play's story

of life in a small New England town, centering on the romance and

marriage of sweet young Emily (a luminous Vanessa Mizzone) and her

beloved George (Chris Schultz) receives a staging whose basic

simplicity belies unexpected depths of subtly articulated feeling.

Zsebe admittedly tosses in a couple of visual conceits that might cause

Wilder to whirl in his grave:  There's a character who performs a

dazzling, yet wholly irrelevant acrobatic dance from a long sash,

seemingly just because it looks good, and, during the play's third act,

which is set in the underworld, the deceased characters swing from

playground swings, when simple chairs are called for in the script. 

Yet the ensemble work is deft and subtle - and moments that are often

corny in other, lesser productions, evoke laughter and tears here -

from the beautiful scene in which Ma Webb (Lindsely Allen) and Ma Gibbs

(Annemette Anderson) shuck their peas, to the touching one in which

Schultz's George suffers his wedding night-cum-fear of mortality

jitters at the altar.  Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd, Culver City;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through June 16.  (310) 838-GANG. An

Actors' Gang production.  (Paul Birchall)

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

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

waiter/performance artist unleashes all his issues and finds himself

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

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

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

GO THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES The central character in

Moliè's comedy, here translated and adapted by FrééMichel & Charles

Duncombe could be and often is a punching bag. But not here. Arnolphe

is another in a stream of Moliè's aging, patronizing nitwits (like

Orgon on Tartuffe) who presume that they can control the devotions and passions of young women in their care. In Tartuffe,

when Orgon's daughter protests his insistence that she break her

wedding plans to her beloved suitor in order to marry the clergyman he

prefers, Orgon figures her rebellion is just a impetuous, child-like

phase. In The School for Wives, there's a similar mind-set to

Arnolphe (Bo Roberts), who has tried to sculpt his young ward, Agnes

(Jessica Madison), into his future wife. He's known her since she was

4, and he's strategically kept her closeted, as though in a convent,

hoping thereby to shape her obedience and gratitude. Just as he's about

to wed her, in stumbles young Horace (Dave Mack) from the street below

her window, and the youthful pair are smitten with eachother, soon

conniving against the old bachelor. Horace, not realizing that Arnolphe

is the man keeping Agnes as his imprisoned ward, keeps confiding in the

older man about his and Agnes' schemes, fueling Arnolphe's exasperation

and fury. Perhaps it's the use of director Michel's tender, Baroque

sound-tracks, or the gentle understatement of Roberts' performance and

Arnolphe, but the play emerges less as a clown show, and more as a

wistful almost elegiac rumination on aging and folly. Arnolphe tried to

create a brainless wife as though from a petri dish, an object he can

own, and the more she rejects him, the more enamored he becomes of her,

until his heart breaks. The pathos is underscored by the obvious

intelligence of Madison's Agnes - an intelligence that Arnolphe is

blind to. The production's reflective tone supersedes Michel's very

stylized, choreographic staging (this company's trademark). The ennui

is further supported by a similarly low-key portrayal by David E. Frank

as Arnolphe's blithe friend and confidante, Chrysalde. In In fact, when

lisping, idiot servants (Cynthia Mance and Ken Rudnicki) keep running

in circles and crashing into each other, Michel's one attempt at

Commedia physicality is at odds with the production rather than a

complement to it. Company costumer Josephine Poinsot (surprising she

doesn't work more) provides luscious period vestments and gowns, and

Duncombe's delightful production design, includes a gurgling fountain,

a tub of white roses, and abstract hints of some elegant, Parisian

court. (SLM) Garage, 1340½Fourth Street (alley entrance); Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 5:30 p.m.; through May 31. (310) 319-9939.

THEATER SPECIAL EVENTS

ANTIGONE Sophocles translated by Irish dramaturge Jocelyn Clarke.

(Discussion follows May 16, 3 p.m., perf.). Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific

Coast Hwy., Malibu; Fri., May 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 16, 3 & 8 p.m.;

Sun., May 17, 3 p.m.. (310) 440-7300.

CIRCLE X FREE READING SERIES Full schedule at

www.circlextheatre.org. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Wed.,

8 p.m.; thru May 27. (323) 463-3900.

GENERATIONEXT: ANG KABATAAN ANG KINABUKASAN Filipino talent

showcase, benefiting poverty-reduction/nation-building charity GAWAD

KALINGA. John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.;

Sat., May 16, 7 p.m.. (323) 461-3673.

IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE Toni Malone's one-woman musical extravaganza.

Celebrity Center, 5930 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Sat., May 16, 7 p.m.,

www.theladyofsong.com. (310) 768-4006.

LEADS & MISFITS Performance showcase directed by Molly Durand.

Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Through May 20, 8 p.m.,

leadsandmisfits@gmail.com. (323) 939-9220.

SIMPLY SHAKESPEARE 2009: THE COMEDY OF ERRORS Staged reading by Rita

Wilson, Tom Hanks, Christina Applegate, Martin Short, Shirley Jones,

and other celebs. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood;

Mon., May 18, 7:30 p.m.. (310) 201-5033.

A WALTZ WITH TENNESSEE Celebrity readings of Tennessee Williams'

plays, poems and letters, with John Singleton, Kate McGregor Stewart,

Clark Gregg, Tony Plana, Erika Alexander, Romi Dames, more. Edgemar

Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Mon., May 18, 7 p.m..

(310)

392-7327.

WAR OF THE WORLDS/THE LOST WORLD Staged readings of the H.G. Wells

and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tales, to be recorded for radio series The Play's the Thing.

Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Through

May 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 16, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 4 p.m.,

www.latw.org. (310) 827-0889.

WORLD'S SMALLEST RENAISSANCE FAIRE Eat, drink and be merry with

micro-sized medieval festivities, food, and fun, including the World's

Smallest Boulder Toss, the World's Smallest Turkey Legs, and the

World's Smallest Dragon. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd.,

North Hollywood; Sat., May 16, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.,

www.theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.


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