Stage Raw: The Future Belongs to Us?
THEATRE OF NOTE MARATHON
Fire-eater Julia Prud'homme Photo by Kiff Scholl
Theatre of NOTE presents its 15th annual Performance Marathon this
coming Saturday, Jan. 16, 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday morn. Performers
include John Fleck, Taylor Negron, Leon Martell, Liam Sullivan, Ten
West, Jon Ruff and the Tuffingtons, Alison Arngrim, Kirsten Vangsness,
Julia Prud'homme, Andy Dick, Culture Clash and more. 1517 N. Cahuenga
Blvd. in Hollywood. Info here
THE FUTURE BELONGS TO US?
In order to close its budget deficit, the Los Angeles Unified School District plans to eliminate half of its elementary school arts teachers (music, dance, theater, visual arts) in 2011 and the remaining half in 2012, by which time there would be no elementary school arts instruction of any kind in our public schools. The ramifications for that are as daunting as they are obvious. Arts for L.A. is circulating a petition to the LAUSD Board of Education to reconsider its draconian plan. The petition is here
OVATIONS WINNERS ANNOUNCED at its ceremony last Monday at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Twenty-nine awards were handed out to 17 different SoCal theater companies, in the peer-nominated competition, administrated by Los Angeles Stage Alliance. Center Theatre Group (Lydia at the Mark Taper Forum and The Little Dog Laughed at the Kirk Douglas Theatre) led with four, followed by the Troubadour Theatre Company (Alice in One Hit Wonderland and As U2 Like It) and the Louis & Keely producing team (Louis & Keely, Live at the Sahara) with three each. NoHo Arts Center Ensemble (Dracula), Musical Theatre West (The Producers), Havok Theatre Company (Kiss of the Spider Woman), Ebony Repertory Theatre (Two Trains Running) and Chalk Repertory Theatre (Family Planning) tied with two awards each. More info here.
WOOSTER GROUP RETURNS TO REDCAT in their production of North Atlantic Perfs begin Feb. 10. More info here.
AUDRA MACDONALD CROONS AT UCLA One night only, Feb. 1, 8:30 p.m. at the Freud Playhouse, as part of the Reprise Theatre Company series. Info here
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for January 15-21, 2010
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
AGA-BOOM The Aga-Boom clowns clown around. Carpenter Performing Arts
Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach; Sat., Jan. 16, 8 p.m.; Sun.,
Jan. 17, 2 p.m., www.CarpenterArts.org. (562) 985-7000.
ARTS IN THE ONE WORLD Only at Calarts: "Presentations, performances
and workshops that demonstrate how survivors, artists and scholars give
testimony and bear witness to circumstances of conflict and social
injustice, opening imaginative space for participation in the recovery
of historical memory and social renewal.". California Institute of the
Arts, 24700 McBean Pkwy., Valencia; Jan. 21-24,
www.artsintheoneworld.org. (661) 253-7800.
BAAL Bertolt Brecht's tale of a profligate poet. Sacred Fools
Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Thurs., Jan. 28, 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 20, www.vimeo.com/8382742. (310)
BOB BAKER MARIONETTE THEATER'S FIESTA First of five classic Bob
Baker productions celebrating the marionette theater's 50th
anniversary. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.;
opens Jan. 19; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru April
11, www.bobbakermarionettes.com. (213) 250-9995.
CAMELOT The Arthurian extravaganza, book and lyrics by Alan Jay
Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino
Ave., Pasadena; opens Jan. 15; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
CONFUSIONS Quintet of interlinked plays by Alan Ayckbourn. Lost
Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 7, www.plays411.com/confusions. (323) 960-5775.
THE 15TH ANNUAL PERFORMANCE MARATHON Featuring John Fleck, Taylor
Negron, Leon Martell, Liam Sullivan, Ten West, Jon Ruff and the
Tuffingtons. Hosted by Alison Arngrim and Kirsten Vangsness. Theatre of
NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Jan. 16, 2 p.m.,
www.theatreofnote.com. (323) 856-8611.
FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY Playhouse actors re-create the original radio
broadcasts, complete with commercials and sound effects. Sierra Madre
Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sun., Jan. 17, 7
p.m., www.sierramadreplayhouse.org. (626) 256-3809.
"FIRESIDE AT THE MILES" Reading of Donald Margulies' Dinner With Friends,
by the Santa Monica College Theatre Arts Department. Miles Memorial
Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Sat., Jan. 16, 8 p.m..
FRIENDS LIKE THESE Gregory Crafts' teen violence drama. Sherry
Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Jan. 15;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 30, www.theatreunleashed.com. (818)
GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira
Gershwin, starring Hershey Felder. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon
Road, Laguna Beach; opens Jan. 17; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;
Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Jan. 28, 2 p.m.;
thru Feb. 21, www.lagunaplayhouse.com. (949) 497-2787.
GRAVITYWORKS L.A. premiere of creator-director-producer Russell
Boast's cabaret that's "part comedy troupe/part vaudeville act/part
kick-ass music/part performance.". Cinespace, 6356 Hollywood Blvd.,
Second Level, L.A.; opens Jan. 21; Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 25,
www.gravityworkstheshow.com. (800) 838-3006.
HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE Paula Vogel's story of survival behind the
wheel. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; opens
Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 20,
www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.
THE IMAGINARY INVALID Parson's Nose theater company performs
Moliere's comedy. Pacific Asia Museum, 46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena;
opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 5, www.parsonsnose.com.
IT'S CRIMINAL! THE COMEDY! Courtroom adventures with criminal
defense attorney Murray Meyer. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St.,
Santa Monica; opens Jan. 16; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 960-7780.
JACKIE MASON: NO HOLDS BARRED The funny man's comedy tour de force.
Wadsworth Theatre, 11301 Wilshire Blvd. (on the Veterans Administration
grounds), L.A.; Jan. 20-23, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 3 p.m.,
www.broadwayla.org. (800) 982-2787.
THE JAMB World premiere of J. Stephen Brantley's comedy. Eclectic
Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; opens Jan.
15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (818) 508-3003.
THE LEAGUE OF S.T.E.A.M. "The League creates a multi-sensory
reimagining of the fascinations and foibles of the Victorian past:
steam-powered thrills, ectoplasmic oddities and supernatural
curiosities.", free. Renee's Courtyard Cafe, 522 Wilshire Blvd., Santa
Monica; Sun., Jan. 17, 7 p.m., www.leagueofsteam.com. (310) 451-9341.
LOYALTIES Two couples' sons enlist in the military at the height of
the war on terror, in Tony Pasqualini's drama. Pacific Resident
Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; opens Jan. 16; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 28, www.PacificResidentTheatre.com. (310)
ON THE AIR Golden Age of Radio murder-mystery musical comedy.
Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; opens Jan. 16;
Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6, www.plays411.com/ontheair. (323) 960-4420.
ORPHEUS DESCENDING Gale Harold, Denise Crosby and Claudia Mason star
in Tennessee Williams' modern retelling of the ancient Greek legend.
Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 15; Thurs.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 21,
www.brownpapertickets.com/event/92508. (800) 838-3006.
THE PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW Paul Reubens returns as the kooky character he
debuted on the Groundling stage in 1981. Club Nokia, 800 W. Olympic
Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 20; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4:30 & 8
p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, www.peewee.com. (800)
PROJECT: WONDERLAND Bootleg's take on the Lewis Carroll fantasy.
Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; opens Fri., Jan. 15, 8 p.m.;
perfs Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 31. (213) 389-3856.
WAITING FOR GODOT Samuel Beckett's absurdist classic. A Noise
Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., Jan. 16, 2 & 8 p.m.;
Sun., Jan. 17, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thurs., Jan. 21, 8 p.m.; Fri., Jan. 22,
8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 23, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 2 & 7 p.m.,
www.ANoiseWithin.org. (818) 240-0910.
PHIL THE VOID: THE GREAT BRAIN ROBBERY Phil Van Hest's rants and
raves. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; opens Jan. 15;
Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru Jan. 30. (866) 811-4111.
PRINCESS BEAN'S MESSY WORLD Rock & roll kids musical about a
petite punk princess. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; opens
Jan. 16; Sat., 12:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.princessbean.com. (310)
PROOF David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize winner, starring disabled
actress Teal Sherer. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North
Hollywood; opens Jan. 16; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb.
21. (323) 960-7863.
RAY BRADBURY'S WISDOM 2116 Two by science-fiction author Ray Bradbury: Wisdom (1916), a new play, and 2116,
a new musical, book and lyrics by Bradbury, music by John Hoke,
developed, directed and choreographed by Steve Josephson. Fremont
Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; opens Jan. 16;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27,
www.Plays411.com/raybradbury. (323) 960-4451.
RUN FOR YOUR WIFE Ray Cooney's marriage farce. Morgan-Wixson
Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; opens Jan. 16; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, www.johnsmithcheats.com. (310)
THE SENSUOUS SENATOR Michael Parker's 1988 bedroom farce. Sierra
Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; opens Jan. 15;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27,
www.sierramadreplayhouse.org. (626) 256-3809.
A SONG AT TWILIGHT Orson Bean, Alley Mills and Laurie O'Brien star
in Noel Coward's last play. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.,
L.A.; opens Jan. 16; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 17, 7 p.m.; Sun., 2
p.m.; thru March 7, www.odysseytheatre.com. (310) 477-2055.
THE SURVEILLANCE SOLOS Dance-theater work by Rebecca Alson-Milkman.
Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Jan. 15-16.
TFN TILTED FRAME NETWORK Live improv comedy, simultaneously
broadcast via Internet from L.A. and San Francisco. Theatre Asylum,
6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru
Jan. 29. (323) 962-1632.
UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL Glen Berger's tale of a library book returned
133 years overdue. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro;
opens Jan. 20; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 28. (310) 512-6030.
WEST Steven Berkoff's 1983 working-class London play. Electric
Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
thru Feb. 6, www.hellion-pictures.com/west. (310) 823-0710.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
AWAKE AND SING! L.A. Theatre Works' staged reading of Clifford
Odets' Great Depression story. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N.
Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; through Jan. 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 16,
2:30 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 17, 2 p.m., www.latw.org. (310) 827-0889.
GO FROSTY THE SNOW MANILOW Take one measure of
maudlin, '70s TV holiday kitsch; add a dozen, inappropriate pop
melodies from the same decade's premier adult-contemporary hit maker;
fold in generous helpings of sardonically retooled lyrics and camped-up
choreography; season to taste with puerile puns, off-color double
entendres and relentlessly self-mocking ad libs; and half-bake for an
hour with an ensemble of crack clowning parodists. This, in a roasted
chestnut shell, is the winning recipe for the Troubadour Theater
Company's annual, off-kilter Christmas confections. To their die-hard
fans, it is immaterial that this year's musically mashed-up targets are
the treacly 1969 cartoon special, Frosty the Snowman, or the
sentimental mewling of the Barry Manilow songbook. With top
chef/director Matt Walker again at the controls of the comedy
Cuisinart, all that matters is that the resulting purée is flavored
with his peerless timing and mischievously wry sensibility. Paul C.
Vogt fills designer Sharon McGunigle's appropriately ludicrous Frosty
costume as the magically animated snowman who hates kids but is
nonetheless resigned to being saved from melting by the cloyingly
effusive schoolgirl, Karen (Christine Lakin). Walker is the evil
magician, Hinkle, who throws plot complications and one-liners in their
path. Standouts include Beth Kennedy, who literally stops the show to
perform insult standup as the Winter Warlock (think Juliette Lewis on
stilts); Rick Batalla as the Station Master with Vegas ambitions; Jack
McGee as the cantankerous narrator and a jive-talking Santa; and the
always remarkable musical director, Eric Heinly, and his Troubadour
band. (Bill Raden)., $32.50 & $40. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside
Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7
p.m.; thru Jan. 17. (818) 955-8101.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL Directed by Obba Babatunde, Choreography by Rena
Phillips and Sherman Steward, Musical Direction by DeBorah
Sharpe-Taylor. Madrid Theater, 21622 Sherman Way, Canoga Park; Fri., 7
p.m.; Sat., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 16. (818) 347-9938.
GO MARY POPPINS The riveting theatricality of Bob
Crowley's production design, climaxing in chimney sweep Bert (Gavin
Lee) soft-shoeing straight up, then upside down across the proscenium
arch, and culminating in a showstopping umbrella flight over the
audience by the famous titular nanny, produces an excitement that far
outshines the limited value intrinsic in much of the musical's written
material. Likewise the sublime showmanship of choreographer Matthew
Bourne and stage director Richard Eyre hides the flaws in Julian
Fellowes' disjointed script and new music by George Stiles and Anthony
Drew. Unlike most of Disney's Broadway smashes that producer Thomas
Schumacher has magically transformed from animated film to stage, this
is a hybrid between Disney's 1964 movie masterpiece, whose fun and
fanciful score by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman still holds up, and
the operetta gleaned from the original novel (with rights held by the
Cameron Mackintosh team). The two styles battle one another for
dominance, and neither wins. Most of the film's story lines are
banished in favor of closer adaptation of the P.L. Travers books with
the familiar songs wedged into the scenes, while the new songs more
closely fit the story, but lack spark. Nevertheless the production is
an audience pleaser, with demonstrable talent on or off the stage. (Tom
Provenzano)., $20-$92. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.;
Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru
Feb. 7. (213) 628-2772.
NEW YEAR NEW WORKS FESTIVAL Theatre West Writers' Workshop's
readings of new plays. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.;
Through Jan. 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 17, 12 & 3 p.m.. (323) 851-7977.
NEW REVIEW ORDINARY DAYS
Photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR
Though meant to be ironic because it is a story of New
York City which, of course, is always extraordinary, the title is
actually prophetic about Adam Gwon's light, predictable pop-musical
"ode to New York" that only occasionally rises above the ordinary. Four
whimsical young characters (played by Nick Gabriel, Deborah S. Craig,
David Burnham and Nancy Anderson) try to navigate through the
turbulence of Manhattan searching for love and purpose. Unfortunately
most of the 18 songs are pattery ditties that give the talented cast
little to work with. Only Burnham gets to let loose with his belting
voice. At one point, in the Metropolitan Museum, Gwon's composition
actually moves into high-gear with some complicated rhythms,
beautifully handled by musical director Dennis Castellano, that
actually sound like an homage to Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with
George. The characters in simple situations of youthful angst -- though
a moving tribute to 9/11 stops the show with unearned emotion. The
evening's best aspect is Fred Kinney's mechanical stage design of
Manhattan architecture, complemented by Jason H. Thompson's clever
projections. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa;
Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.; thru Jan. 24.
(714) 708-5555. (Tom Provenzano)
PALESTINE, NEW MEXICO When U.S. Army Captain Catherine Siler
(Kirsten Potter) stumbles into "Bumfuck" --a New Mexico Indian
reservation --she's already tripping, exhausted from crossing the
desert, dehydrated and addicted to her now-terminated prescription meds
for pain and stress. That's before she drinks a peyote-laced beverage
given to her by one of the natives, for dehydration. So in Richard
Montoya's mess of a new play, which contains the germ of a beautiful
idea, there are dreams, and then there are dreams. I tracked at least
four plays, each in different styles, and for a 90-minute experience
without intermission, that's the dramaturgical definition of a cake
just been put in the oven, with ingredients still bumping up against
each other. Lisa Peterson directs. (Steven Leigh Morris). Mark Taper
Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Sun..; thru Jan. 24. (213)
GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless
skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary
Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an
audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's
damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and
George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;
Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.
GO THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG Geared to the
7-and-under set, this good-natured interactive musical exudes appeal
beyond its demographic. Inspired by a German folktale, writers Lloyd
Schwartz and Hope Juber's adaptation features a good fairy named
Hyacinth (Mary Garripoli) as the prime mover of events. After she
welcomes the audience with a song about the importance of "doin' good,"
along comes a prince (understudy Iain Gray) who sings about "lookin'
good." His attitude so annoys Hyacinth that she turns him into a frog,
stipulating that he can only return to his natural form if kissed by a
princess. The rest of the story proceeds along more or less traditional
lines: The frog recovers the lost ball of a querulous princess (Jenn
Wiles) who is reluctant to keep her promise to kiss him until pressured
by her father, the king (Anthony Gruppuso). Much of the piece's charm
stems from the delight --and the unintended comedic faux pas
--displayed by the youngsters called up on the stage to participate.
The non-patronizing performers seem to be enjoying themselves as well.
A song "Croak Croak, Ribbit, Ribbit" involving a couple of frog puppets
is contagiously entertaining, whatever one's age. The uncredited
costumes are fun too. Barbara Mallory Schwartz directs, with songs by
Hope Jube and musical director Laurence Juber. (Deborah Klugman).
Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb.
27. (323) 851-7977.
RIVERDANCE The Irish step-dancing spectacular. Pantages Theater,
6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.;
Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Jan. 24, www.broadwayla.org. (213)
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
GO ABSINTHE, OPIUM, & MAGIC: 1920S SHANGHAI
1920s Shanghai is the setting of Debbie McMahon's wonderfully
environmental tour de force of clowning, dancing and blood, which
evokes, with ferocious imagination, not just a bygone era but also the
atmosphere of the Grand Guignol. Upon arrival at the theater, we are
ushered into an ante-chamber outside the actual auditorium, which has
been set up to resemble a Shanghai bazaar. There are sallow-eyed
maidens serving tea -- and also warm absinthe, strained through sugar,
Thomas De Quincey-style. The scent of the absinthe wafts through the
entire theater, melding with dry ice and creating a mood that elegantly
mixes pleasure and decay. The play's first act, "Sing Song Girl Sings
Last Song," is a haunting ballet of despair, involving a cast that
includes jaded "Sing Song Girl" prostitute Bright Pearl (Tina Van
Berckelaer), a young virgin protégé (Amanda Street) who dreams of
becoming Top Whore, and calculating Madame Old Bustard (Dinah Steward),
who plots to sell the virgin to be raped and mutilated by a piglike
mobster (Roy Starr). Anchored by Jeanne Simpson's pleasingly
melodramatic choreography, the dance tackles a compelling story of
rage, despair and vice. Steward's charmingly sinister Old Bustard
steals every scene she's in --but Street's scheming, loathsome virgin
is a standout as well. Act 2's vignette, Chris Bell's "The Cabinet of
Hands," is a gripping horror tale, with a sharp twist of quirky humor.
A prissy young French couple (Robin Long and Zachary Foulkes),
vacationing in Shanghai, gets more than they bargain for when they go
slumming at the opium den owned by a seemingly kind old woman (Elyse
Ashton). As the thrill-seeking Westerners get happily stoned on The
Dragon's Tail, the old woman's diabolical true nature shows through.
The final scene consists of a jaw-dropping gorefest that will have you
simultaneously howling with terror and laughter (while slipping your
hands in your pockets for safekeeping). Ashton's wicked old woman is
the perfect embodiment of mysterious evil --and the horrific fate of
Long's ill-fated naif hilariously suggests an anti-drug teaching moment
that's very effective. (Paul Birchall). Artworks Performance Space,
6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru
Jan. 23. (800) 838-3006.
GO ACCOMPLICE: HOLLYWOOD Part game, part theater,
part tour: It all begins with a phone call disclosing a secret meeting
location. Aided by clues and mysterious cast members strewn throughout
various locations, such as street corners, bars, iconic landmarks and
out-of-the-way spots, the audience traverses the city streets, piecing
together clues of a meticulously crafted plot. (Steven Leigh Morris).
Hollywood Blvd., TBA, L.A.; Fri.-Sat. http://accomplicetheshow.com
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 BLOOD AND THUNDER
Photo by J. R. Lawton
In The Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Marcus (Keith
Arthur Bolden) isn't scared of the newly arrived hurricane, Katrina.
Marcus is an expert on everything -- at least, he watches a lot of TV
-- and vows the water won't rise above 10 feet. But Marcus' theories
and conclusions have always gotten him, brother Quentin (Tony Williams)
and Marcus' girlfriend Charlie (Candice Afia) in over their heads with
one bad hustling scheme after another. Still, Marcus is convinced he's
the brains of the group, even if he has to badger Quentin and Charlie
until they agree. When Quentin limps in, sopping wet and still in his
orange prison jumpsuit with a bullet hole in his thigh, the two
siblings have a violent score to settle. Terence Anthony's taut one-act
drama is effective agony. Two character twists may not add up, but
while the audience perches practically in the living room of Jorge I.
Velasquez's realistic dingy set, with the rain hammering down, the
tension is as thick as the storm clouds we imagine overhead. Solid
performances keep the spell going, particularly by Afia as the
strong-willed girlfriend trying to break free from Marcus' emotional
abuse. Sara Wagoner directs. Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., Silver
Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 666-3259.
DOCTOR NOGUCHI Gary LeGault's story of an L.A. County coroner and
the ghosts of celebrities past. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa
Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun..; thru Jan. 31. (310)
F*CKING MEN Joe DiPietro's observations on the sex lives of modern
urban gay America. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd.,
L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (323) 957-1884.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE That's weekly sketch comedy done by some of the
best in the sketch biz. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.;
Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
GO THE GLASS MENDACITY Devotees of Tennessee
Williams will surely delight in this send-up of the playwright's
best-known dramas. Maureen Morley and Tom Willmorth have blended
characters and motifs from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire
into one big, irreverent stew of laughs. Gathered together at the Belle
Reeve plantation are Mitch (Ken Johnson, who doubles as a narrator),
Amanda (Stephanie Strand), Maggie (Renee Scott), Brick (a dummy named
Eliot Barrymore), Stanley (Joe Dalo) and Blanche (Catherine Cronin, who
traveled by way of a certain streetcar). The occasion is Big Daddy's (a
hilarious Quincy Miller) arrival from the hospital and a celebration of
his birthday. As in Cat, the cigar-smoking patriarch has cancer but is
told he is suffering only from a "spastic colon." And we must not
forget dear Laura Dubois (Strand), who limps and vomits her way
throughout, while fixated on her menagerie of animals made of ice
cubes. From this disparate collection of Williams' familiars, the
writers weave a quirky narrative involving lust, insanity, infidelity,
sibling rivalry, intrigue and lots of mendacity. It probably helps if
you have some knowledge of Williams' plays, (in one scene Stanley calls
out "Starland," instead of Stella). Andrew Crusse provides the solid
direction. (Lovell Estell III). Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd.,
L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 30, arktheatre.org.
HAMLET The Porters of Hellsgate present Shakespeare's tragedy.
Flight Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (951) 262-3030.
HELLZ KITCHEN ABLAZE Tommy Carter's drama of urban malaise, police
brutality, and corruption. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica
Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6,
www.plays411.com/hellzkitchen. (323) 962-0046.
THE HOUSE OF BESARAB Anyone expecting Tamara II may want to give a pass to this disappointing adaptation of Dracula.
Though the production shares the venue --the landmark Hollywood
American Legion Post --that housed the legendary environmental stage
hit and promises a similarly immersive theatrical experience,
playwrights Terance Duddy (who directs and is also the set and light
designer) and Theodore Ott's anemic text simply pales before the
full-blooded characterizations and labyrinthine simultaneity that made Tamara
so richly rewarding. Here the Post stands in for Castle Dracula as
Dracula (Michael Hegedus) himself appears in the atrium to welcome the
assembled audience "to witness a battle between good and evil." In
point of fact, what ensues is essentially the final chapter of Bram
Stoker's novel embroidered with the reincarnation-romance subplot of
Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film version and a bizarre, mad-scientist
twist worthy of Roger Corman. The audience can either follow the Count
and his servile assistant, Renfield (David Himes) into "the Great Hall"
or wait for Dr. Van Helsing (Travis Michael Holder), Dr. Seward
(Jessica Pagan understudying for Terra Shelman) and Harker (Dane
Bowman), who soon arrive with a somnambulent Mina (Chase McKenna) on a
mission to save her vampire-baptized soul. (Hint: Follow Van Helsing;
he's where the action -- and the better writing -- is.) Despite the
capable cast's game effort and some elegant costuming by Sara Spink
(who also does a fine turn as one of Dracula's very pregnant brides), a
lackluster production design and stolid direction only compound the
exposition-laden script's failure to realize its environmental-theater
ambitions. (Bill Raden). Hollywood American Legion, 2305 N. Highland
Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 17. (310)
THE INTERNATIONALISTS Poor Dog Group re-creates the space race.
Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan.
JUST A SONG AT TWILIGHT Willard Manus' drama about growing up in a
deaf household. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun..;
thru Feb. 28. (323) 469-3113.
GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop jukebox musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes),
with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz,
and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit
songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama
Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The
Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield,
the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and
go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a
star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim
Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him.
Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they
apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top
mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty
daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the
end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This
is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this
rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre,
6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8
p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 960-4412.
MEETING OF MINDS If you don't remember who Steve Allen was, here's a
primer: The bespectacled writer, radio personality, TV talk and game
show host (he was the first Tonight Show host), musician and
composer ("This Could Be the Start of Something Big") was ahead of his
time --Bill Maher, David Letterman, Johnny Carson and David Frost
rolled into one. He asked guests hard questions, was book-smart,
inimitably witty and took chances. One chance that paid off and set a
precedent for intelligent TV (now there's an oxymoron) was his PBS show
Meeting of Minds, which consisted of teleplays featuring
roundtable "interviews" with historical figures such as Cleopatra,
Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun and Plato. The show ran from 1977 to
1981 and became hugely popular as an entertaining and riveting way to
learn about history. Now, you can witness live performances of Allen's
actual scripts in a revival of the original shows. Steve Allen Theater,
at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Third
Sunday of every month, 7 p.m.. (323) 666-4268.
MOIST! Mariann Aalda and Iona Morris are MILF-y inspirational
sexperts, heading (so to speak) the Multiple Orgasm Initiative for
Sexual Transformation. Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7
p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.MoistOnStage.com. (323) 960-4442.
PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE Steve Martin's 1993 comedy. East Theatre
at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 960-7714.
NEW REVIEW GO SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED The Impro Theatre specializes in improvising
full-length plays in the literary style of prominent writers,
including, in the past, Jane Austen, Tennessee Williams, and Stephen
Sondheim. Here, under the direction of artistic directors Brian Lohman
and Dan O'Connor, they're tackling the Bard, taking the most minimal
suggestions from the audience and spinning them into dizzily amusing
mock-Shakespearean epics. At the performance I attended, they created a
comedy that might be called Much Ado About Blue-Birds. Miranda (Lisa
Frederickson) is the slightly deaf daughter (she seems to hear clearly
only the songs of blue-birds) of the Duke of Kent (Lohman). Kent has
decided to marry her off to the elderly Duke of York (Floyd Van
Buskirk), but she has already developed a fancy for Price (O'Connor), a
young man from the village who loves her, and has learned to tweet like
a blue-bird to woo her. The course of true love is threatened by a
couple of mischievous fairies (Brian Jones and Edi Patterson) and a
man-eating bear until the blissful final scene, which is as sententious
as any old Will created. The company (including Michele Spears and
Stephen Kearin) is clever, nimble and quick on its feet, and the result
is an amiable, crowd-pleasing divertissement. Theatre Impro at Theatre
Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 7 p.m., thru Feb. 14. (323) 401-9793. (Neal Weaver)
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)
NEW REVIEW TWENTY-TWO A friend once explained his decision to quit cocaine as his
weariness of the disreputable types with whom he was forced to deal and
of the even scarier places where they invariably dealt. So it is in
actor-playwright Julia Morizawa's hyperkinetic, autobiographical
addiction nightmare. For Leila (Morizawa), the story's 22-year-old
heroine, however, no amount of unsavory associations can deter her from
her unapologetic, single-minded snorting of coke with the fierce
efficiency of a shop vac. Her unbridled enthusiasm for the powder soon
ensnares her two best friends, Zoe (Shaina Vorspan) and the musician,
Danny (Matthew Black), whose cluttered apartment becomes Leila's de
facto drug den. And with her boyfriend/dealer, Eric (Raymond Donahey),
as their enabler/supplier, the friends' walk on the sordid side quickly
careens into a coked-up version of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Director
Donahey intensifies the luridness of the proceedings by seating the
audience on the set like so many uninvited guests. But Morizawa's
restricting focus on the outward spectacle of her characters' freefall
rarely musters pathos for their plunge. While the play hints at deeper
demons whetting Leila's manic appetite (i.e. fear and self-loathing),
the evening's most poignant and revealing moment belongs not to its
protagonist but to its bogeyman, Sol (the fine James Adam Patterson),
when the unscrupulous street dealer speaks with pride over a daughter's
scholastic achievements. Had Morizawa been as generous with her other
characters, she might have delivered something more engaging than
sideshow debasement and morbid, voyeuristic thrills. Knightsbridge
Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan.
30. (323) 667-0955. (Bill Raden)
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)
THE WINDUP PUPPET SHOW Windup puppets come to life to the music of
Manheim Steamroller. Created by Chris Berube, directed and co-written
by Wendy Carter. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second
Floor, L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 28, www.berubians.com. (323)
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
AFTER HOURS SHOW Presented by Neo Acro Theatre Company. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Jan. 30. www.neoacrotheatre.com.
NEW REVIEW ALMOST, MAINE Love is very much in the air in the idyllic community of
Almost, Maine, the setting for John Cariani's homage to Cupid's often
strange, unpredictable machinations. The play is formatted as a series
of star filled, romantic encounters that are mostly sugary sweet, with
a sprinkling of salt for good measure. Director Ashley Archambeau does
a fine job marshaling the cast of 18, all of whom turn in good
performances. This more than makes up for the sillier, vacuous moments
that spring up during some of these vignettes. A good example of this
would be "They Fell," with Erout Dolen and Adam Sandroni as two pals
whose underlying sexual attraction for each other causes them to fall
on the floor. It's funny for all of 10 seconds, but the skit lasts far
longer. Ditto for "This Hurts," where a bout of head bashing with
ironing boards turns gratingly sentimental and silly. "Where it Went"
is a heart wrenching meditation on love lost with Luke Wright and
Arianna Arias as a couple whose once magical attraction has evaporated.
"Sad and Glad" tosses in a bit of the mysterious with Greyson Lewis and
Lauren Andrea as strangers brought together by a misspelled tattoo. Neo
Acro Theatre Company at the Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia
Blvd.; North Hollywood.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru Jan. 30.
http://NeoAcroTheatre.com (Lovell Estell III)
A BIG GAY NORTH HOLLYWOOD WEDDING Interactive homo-nuptials by William A. Reilly and Ben Rovner. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Jan. 23. (818) 605-5685.
CIRCUS WELT Pavel Cerny wrote and directs this world-premiere production with "20 actors, 50 costumes, 6 clowns, 6 Nazi stormtroopers, several love affairs, laughter and tears.". Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (866) 811-4111.
GBLT: GAYS, BACON, LETTUCE AND TOMATO Tasty treats from Theatre Unleashed's sketch comedy troupe Die Gruppe. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Through Jan. 16, 10:30 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 27, 9 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 30, 10:30 p.m., www.theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.
NEW BEGINNINGS Neo Acro Theatre Company presents six original short plays by local writers. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun..; thru Jan. 31...
ONE MAN, TWO PLAYS Dan Hildebrand in The Nonsense by Kevin Cotter and Whatever Gets You Through the Night by Andrew Kazamia. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 25. (323) 960-5650.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
GO THE BROWNING VERSION Though not as widely known or acclaimed as his contemporary British playwrights, Terence Rattigan was a superb dramatist and chronicler of human emotions. Here, Rattigan's The Browning Version, the gloomy story of an aging schoolteacher crushed by failure and disappointment, receives a stellar mounting by director Marilyn Fox. A well-regarded scholar of the classics, Andrew Crocker-Harris (the superb Bruce French) has spent the last 18 years as an instructor at a public school in England but must leave the position because of failing health to take a less-stressful job elsewhere. Now the object of jokes and ridicule by his students, and denied a pension by the school, he has a bearing that is subdued by sadness, yearning and a palpable "gallows" surrender to circumstance. His wife, Millie (Sally Smythe), has given up on being happy with him and has contented herself with numerous dalliances with his colleagues (which she delights in reminding him of), and cruelly undermining what remains of his sense of manhood. Her current lover, Frank (understudy David Rogge), is torn between a sense of guilt, his admiration for Andrew, and the dying embers of lust for Millie. It is only when the professor is presented with a rare translation of Agamemnon from a student (Justin Preston) that his mask of stoic restraint melts to reveal a desperately fragile inner life. From this sedate tapestry of characters, Rattigan artfully probes marriage, relationship and our perverse capacity to embrace lacerating emotional pain and self-deceit, which all unfolds beautifully on Norman Scott's cleverly designed sitting-room mock-up. Fox directs this piece with masterful subtlety and draws devastatingly convincing performances from her actors.(Lovell Estell III). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (310) 822-8392.
CHAPTER TWO Neil Simon's 1977 comedy about a widowed writer. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (310) 454-1970.
NEW REVIEW 11, SEPTEMBER
Photo by Heather Kampf
Playwright-performer Paul Kampf may have come up with the
perfect rationalization for writing what would seem, at face value, the
most implausible plot twists for his psychological thriller. It
concerns an affair between a mathematician, Martin Healy (Kampf),
visiting New York from his London home to attend a conference, and a
waitress, Angela Madison (Liz Rebert), with whom he becomes smitten.
Under Gita Donovan's direction, the actors' waves of attraction and
repulsion (from mutual distrust that slowly and hauntingly seeps out)
have a truthfulness that matches the authenticity of the uncredited
studio apartment set, where the entire saga plays out. A rising tension
from the violence in the air and some very intriguing inter-connections
adds to play's capacity to entrance, and Chris Cash's musical
compositions help segue the many scenes with a delicate solemnity,
giving the event a cinematic feel. References to chaos theory and
conspiracy theory become the philosophical frame for plot developments
what might otherwise raise eyebrows in skepticism. The play rides the
line between exploring and exploiting coincidences, yet it gets bogged
down in its own psychological realism. This raises questions that can't
be answered by chaos theory, or any other - such as why the characters
sometimes blurt out incendiary details of their past, given how neither
is particularly trust-worthy, or why Martin would drop by uninvited and
wind up reading Angela's diary, conveniently left in her bed. Breadline
Productions at the Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los
Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Feb. 7. (310)
477-2055. (Steven Leigh Morris)
IN THE COMPANY OF JANE DOE Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents Tiffany Atone's world premiere. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.
ITALIAN AMERICAN RECONCILIATION John Patrick Shanley's comedy about two lifelong friends. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Jan. 23. (310) 397-3244.
LOVE IN BLOOM By Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (310) 394-9779.
GO AN OAK TREE
Photo by William Adashek
On the simplest story-telling level, actor-performer Tim
Crouch's play is the tale of a hypnotist, falling apart at the seams,
who accidentally struck and killed a girl with his car, and how he one
day finds the victim's father on his stage. Wrenching stuff. But on a
conceptual level, the event takes this very emotional saga and uses it
as a kind of ping pong ball to bat around the idea of suspension of
disbelief - realities that we create through suggestion. In order to
accomplish this, he employs a different actor for each performance,
whom he meets less than one hour before the performance, and who reads
the role of the father from a script. And so, through a frame of
hypnotism that's just one of the play's many artifices, begins a
breathtaking examination of the blurred line between what is real and
what is suggested, of how we live in dream worlds in order to get by,
and how theater itself is a kind of hypnosis that serves this very same
purpose. Its brilliance is unfetttered and inexplicably moving, for
being such a head-trip. Odyssey Theater, 2055 Sepulveda Boulevard, West
Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Feb. 14. (310)
477-2055. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature on Wednesday night.
PICK OF THE VINE Nine original short plays selected from submissions by playwrights from around the world. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 31, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 11, 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (310) 512-6030.
SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION The Kentwood Players present John Guare's drama. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, www.kentwoodplayers.org. (310) 645-5156.
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