This week's Theater Feature on Camelot and Baal.
NEW REVIEW THE PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW
Photo by Ed Krieger
In his much anticipated, first major stage appearance since 1991, obnoxious-sweet man-child Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) appears at Club Nokia downtown in what is essentially a slightly updated re-creation of his CBS kids' show, Pee-wee's Playhouse. It's populated on David Korins' set of colorful animated objects by an array of puppets and the live characters who made the Playhouse a cult classic among kids of the '80s, and adults who wanted to be among them. These include Mailman Mike (John Moody), Bear (Drew Powell), Jambi (John Paragon), Sergio (Jesse Garcia), Cowboy Curtis (Phil LaMarr), Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart), King of Cartoons (Lance Roberts) and Firefighter (Josh Meyers). The spectacle, directed by Alex Timbers, is really an exercise is nostalgia that aims to re-start Pee-wee's public life, and in that motive resides the show's drawbacks. Reubens is as limber as ever, depicting a Pee-wee who has barely aged. With nasal guffaws and puppet-like dexterity, Pee-wee rollicks in his ill-fitting, taut gray suit, trademark red bowtie and greased hair. Ensnaring our infatalism and self-absorption, with moments of poignant generosity, Pee-wee's 7-year-old mentality, locked into his psyche as though with the huge chain of his bicycle, was and remains a brilliant invention. This show, however, co-written by Reubens and Bill Steinkellner, with additional material by John Paragon, is less so. The Pee-wee shtick wears out quickly, as though even Reubens is getting tired of it, and the droll, '50s moralizing, captured in vintage cartoons about the importance of washing hands and showing courtesy in a lunch line, is as thin as the kind of kitschy wrapping paper you might have once found in Wacko. There's a lovely moment where Pee-wee suffers the consequences of giving away a wish he's been granted -- which means he has to suffer for his compassion by not getting what he wants. Life lesson? Hardly, when that consequence is gratuitously reversed. The reversal isn't the problem; it's that happy endings come out of the sky if you're just nice to people. No, they don't. The campiness and very '80s irony is just an excuse for sidestepping a real idea, or the kind of scrutiny that sharp kids' entertainments get to the heart of. Club Nokia, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, www.peewee.com. (800) 745-3000. (Steven Leigh Morris)
SHOW BEING REVIEWED THIS WEEKEND
BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA Charles L. Mee's "fantastical road trip through
the American landscape written as Robert Rauschenberg, one of America's
greatest living artists, might conceive it". [Inside] the Ford, 2580
Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; opens Jan. 23; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7
p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 461-3673.
THE CITY Clyde Fitch's 1909 play, adapted and directed by Stan
Mazin. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North
Hollywood; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28,
www.thegrouprep.com. (818) 700-4878.
CONFUSIONS Quintet of interlinked plays by Alan Ayckbourn. Lost
Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru
March 7, www.plays411.com/confusions. (323) 960-5775.
DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD Bert V. Royal's
dark parody of the "Peanuts" comic strip. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica
Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 31, 7 p.m.; thru
Feb. 6. (323) 469-9988.
HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE Paula Vogel's story of survival behind the
wheel. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 20, www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.
THE JAMB World premiere of J. Stephen Brantley's comedy. Eclectic
Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (818) 508-3003.
THE KINGS OF THE KILBURN HIGH ROAD Jimmy Murphy's Irish wake at a
London pub. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; opens Jan. 23;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.theatrebanshee.org. (818)
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.; 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.; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7:30 p.m.; thru
Feb. 7, www.peewee.com. (800) 745-3000.
PROOF David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize winner, starring disabled
actress Teal Sherer. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North
Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323)
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.;
Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7, www.odysseytheatre.com. (310)
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WEST Steven Berkoff's 1983 working-class London play. Electric Lodge,
1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6,
www.hellion-pictures.com/west. (310) 823-0710.