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Stage Raw: Theater Folk (Shockingly) Spin into TV and Film!

THE 31ST ANNUAL L.A. WEEKLY THEATER AWARDS


NOIR - FACE THE MUSIC

Stage Raw: Theater Folk (Shockingly) Spin into TV and Film!

Heritage Square and Yale Cabaret Hollywood present a live, unusual reading of an interactive television script. The reading is set for Sunday, February 21, 4 p.m. at the Victorian Parlor of the Perry Mansion at Heritage Square Museum, 3800 Homer Street, Los Angeles, CA 90031 near the Avenue 43 Exit of the 110 Freeway. All proceeds help fund the museum. Admission is a requested donation of $10 with free admission for Heritage Square Members or New Members joining at the $35 level or more. (323) 225-2700, Ext. 223.

Noir - Face The Music is a script commissioned from Ray Malus to create a television program exercising the interactive infrastructure Cable TV companies are deploying for Advertising. This is a world premier. Ben Rock directs. For more here.

SCREAM OF THE BIKINI

Bill Robens and Kiff Scholl's move (directed by Scholl) is being screened Fri. Feb. 19 and Sat. Feb. 20 at 11:55pm at the Laemmle Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 90046 www.laemmle.com

"Scream of the Bikini is a 1960s action-spy-thriller by acclaimed South American

director, Fernando Fernandez. Jasmine Orozco and Paola Apanapal - in their English

language film debuts - are Bridget and Sophia: gorgeous super models by day, brutal

bounty hunters by night. Murder, intrigue and pillow fights await our beautiful leading

ladies at every turn, as they match wits and martial arts with a coterie of madmen and

women bent on world domination. Filmed somewhere in South America in 1966, and

poorly translated and dubbed by Germans, this unintentionally funny James Bond meets

Barbarella love child plumbs the seedy depths of the international fashion model/psychokiller

underworld with a boldness that only a gun to the head can provide."

For COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below.



COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for February 19-25, 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

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following

cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller

Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller

Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for

any play by title, using your computer's search engine.

OPENING THIS WEEK


ARTEL: KHARMFUL CHARMS OF DANIIL KHARMS With its Victorian-esque

subtitle, "A Theatrical Incident with Curious Music, Unfamiliar Singing

and Improbable Dancing" the Kharmful Charms of Daniil Kharms

returns from last year's successful workshop in an expanded theatrical

dance performance., $24-$28. Artworks Performance Space, 6569 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 19; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 20.

(800) 838-3006.

THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL Ifa Bayeza's civil rights drama about the

1955 murder of an African-American teen. Fountain Theatre, 5060

Fountain Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 20; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;

thru March 20. (323) 663-1525.

BROADS World premiere musical about the ladies of a Florida

retirement home, book by Jennie Fahn, music and lyrics by Joe Symon.

(In the Forum Theater). El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood; opens Feb. 19; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3

p.m.; thru April 4. (818) 508-4200.

DOLORES/NORTH OF PROVIDENCE SFS Theatre Company presents Edward

Allan Baker's sibling plays. Stephanie Feury Studio Theater, 5636

Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 24; Wed., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March

20. (323) 463-7378.

FACADE: A LYRICAL COMPILATION Spoken-word dramatization by

writer-producer Elle Jai, with guitarist Doc Powell. The Complex, 6476

Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Feb. 19-21, www.facadelive.com. (626)

818-4802.

FAKE RADIO: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU Old-time-radio version of the

play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave.,

L.A.; Sun., Feb. 21, 7 p.m.. (323) 653-6886.

THE FIRST LADY World-premiere opera about Eleanor Roosevelt. Music

by Ken Wells, libretto by Ken Wells, Gayle Strauss, Rick Roudebush and

Matt Wells. NPI Auditorium, UCLA, 720 Westwood Blvd., L.A.; Fri., Feb.

19, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m.;

Sat., Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., March 3, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 2

p.m.. (310) 794-3711.


HERSHEY FELDER AS MONSIEUR CHOPIN A piano lesson at Frédéric Chopin's

salon at 9 Square d'Orléans in Paris, just days after the start of the

French revolution. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna

Beach; opens Feb. 25; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun.,

2 p.m.; thru March 7. (949) 497-2787.

NEVERMORE Jeffrey Combs is Edgar Allan Poe. North Coast Repertory

Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Feb. 23-24, 7:30 p.m..

(858) 481-2155.

THE POETRY OF PIZZA California Repertory Company presents Deborah

Brevoort's "cheesy" romantic comedy. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long

Beach; opens Feb. 19; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru March 13.

(562) 985-5526.

THE RICKY, JULIAN AND BUBBLES' COMMUNITY SERVICE VARIETY SHOW

Starring the Trailer Park Boys. The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs., Feb. 25. (213) 380-5005.

Black History Month

SHOULDER TO SHOULDER: AFRICAN-AMERICANS, THE ARTS AND AUTISM Special

Needs Network, Inc., the Robey Theatre Company and Ebony Repertory

Theatre present their first-annual fund-raiser for children with

autism. Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd.,

L.A.; Thurs., Feb. 25, 6-9 p.m.. (323) 964-9768.

SLAUGHTER CITY Naomi Wallace's labor drama set in a unionized meat

factory. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 19;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru March 15...

SOAP FAN MYSTERY THEATRE Staged reading of Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest by stars of daytime television, including Vincent Irizarry, Jacob Young, Adam Mayfield, Robert Newman, Constance Towers and Hart to Hart's

Stefanie Powers., $49.50, $150 VIP. Writers Guild Theater, 135 S.

Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills; Sat., Feb. 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 21, 2

& 7 p.m.. (800) 595-4849.

THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES Martin Sheen, Frances Conroy and Brian

Geraghty star in Frank D. Gilroy's family drama. Mark Taper Forum, 135

N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 21; Sun., Feb. 21, 7 p.m.; Tues.-Fri.,

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

21. (213) 628-2772.

TEATRO EN EL BLANCO: DICIEMBRE Chilean writer-director Guillermo

Calderon's drama about a future war in Santiago. REDCAT, 631 W. Second

St., L.A.; Feb. 24-27, 8:30 p.m.. (213) 237-2800.

TOHUBOHU! EXTREME THEATER ENSEMBLE Debut of monthly performances by

Rachel Rosenthal's new improvisational theater company. Espace DbD,

2847 S. Robertson Blvd., L.A.; Feb. 19-21, 8:30 p.m.,

www.rachelrosenthal.org. (310) 839-0661.

TORRID AFFAIRE Theatre Unleashed presents Andrew Moore's sex comedy.

Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Feb. 19;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6...

THE UNEXPECTED MAN Yasmina Reza's story of a man and woman on a

train ride from Paris to Frankfurt. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 20; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.;

thru March 28. (323) 960-7779.

VILLA THEATER LAB: ALKESTIS Experimental troupe Big Dance Theater's

movement-theater version of Euripides' oldest surviving work. Getty

Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Fri., Feb. 19, 8 p.m.; Sat.,

Feb. 20, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 21, 3 p.m.. (310) 440-7300.

WIT Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning cancer drama. Crossley

Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; opens Feb. 19; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 462-8460.

X REPERTORY THEATRE PRESENTS: AN EVENING WITH DANNY SUSSMAN

Moderated by Marc Jablon. XRT, 1581 Industrial St., L.A.; Thurs., Feb.

25, 7-10 p.m.. (213) 536-4331.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

AURÉLIA'S ORATORIO Created and directed by Victoria Thierrée

Chaplin, starring Aurélia Thierrée. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla

Village Dr., La Jolla; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (858) 550-1010.

CALIFORNIA SUITE L.A. Theatre Works presents a staged reading of Neil Simon's comedy, to be recorded for syndicated-radio show The Play's the Thing.

Bruce Davison, Marsha Mason and Amy Pietz star. Skirball Cultural

Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Through Feb. 19, 8 p.m.;

Sat., Feb. 20, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 21, 4 p.m., www.latw.org. (310)

827-0889.

CAVE QUEST Les Thomas' story of a video gamer looking for inner

peace who tracks down a legendary American Buddhist nun in a Tibetan

cave. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 14. (213) 625-7000.

CELADINE Charle Evered's bawdy comedy with spying, swordfighting and

crossdressing. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Sun., 2 &

7 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru March 7,

www.colonytheatre.org. (818) 558-7000.

NEW REVIEW GO THE COLOR PURPLE Patrons standing outside the Pantages for last weekend's performance of The Color Purple were understandably miffed when it was announced that because of illness, American Idol

glamgirl Fantasia would not be performing. But, to trot out the cliché,

the show must go on: Brandi Chavone Massey acquitted herself superbly

in the Fantasia's role of Celie, the long suffering abused child who

gradually transforms into a paradigm of self-sufficiency and proud

womanhood. But Celie's painful journey is also a story about the

enduring power of the human spirit, and love in its myriad forms.

Massey effortlessly plowed through one song after another, never

missing a note, and her acting was every bit as impressive. Marsha

Norman's adaptation of Alice Walker's novel, (music and lyrics by

Brenda Russell, Alee Willis, and Stephen Bray), crackles with energy,

notwithstanding some awkward plot twists, and a second act that

languishes. This is a show that's hard not to get swept up in. The mix

of gospel, blues and jazz is as alluring as Paul Tazewell's colorful

array of costumes, and Donald Byrd's choreography. Gary Griffin

directs. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Tues.-Fri.

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

http://www.BroadwayLA.org (800) 982-ARTS. (Lovell Estell III)

DOUBT: A PARABLE John Patrick Shanley's Tony- and Pulitzer

Prize-winning play. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Sun., 2

p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (805)

667-2900.

NEW REVIEW GO THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES

Stage Raw: Theater Folk (Shockingly) Spin into TV and Film!

Photo by Michael Lamont

"The Female of the species is more deadly than the male," wrote

Rudyard Kipling just about 100 years ago. That might well be the theme

of Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith's satire of all things

that have fallen into the gender divide over the past 40 years, at

least. The comedy is set in the library/living-room in the secluded,

country home of Margot Mason (Annette Bening), a sardonic wit and

author of feminist self-help books. (Bening's take is perfectly

competent, though narrow in range). Margot struggles to meet an

impending deadline for a book she's barely started when an interloper

named Molly Rivers (Merrit Wever) wanders in through the French doors

(Takeshi Kata designed the detailed, realistic set). Based on a

real-life incident involving such an intrusion upon author Germaine

Greer, and after blustering out some fake adoration for the famous

author, Molly pulls out a pistol and threatens to kill Margot for her

sequence of celebrity-motivated, contradictory exegeses that, Molly

believes, were responsible for her own mother's suicide. (The

despondent woman allegedly clutched a copy of Margot's The Cerebral

Vagina, before hurling herself under a moving train.) Enter Margot's

daughter Tess (a particularly fine Mireille Enos), traumatized by her

mother's decades of neglect and contempt for her daughter "settling"

into a married life with a nice if dim-witted hedge-fund investor named

Bryan (an endearing turn by David Arquette). ("I love you Tess. You

know I've always mounted you on a pedestal.") A hausfrau in crisis

somewhere between despair and oblivion, Tess has no complaint with

Molly's intention to murder her mother in cold blood. Add to the mix

(yes, it's a very busy day for an author who desires only to be left

alone to write) Molly's macho taxi driver, Frank (Josh Stamberg),

furious because Molly stiffed him - because he wouldn't stop talking

about how his wife just left him. Margot's publisher, Theo (Julian

Sands) also shows up and resolves a lingering question of genealogy.

(The farce is not intended to hold up a mirror to life's most probable

outcomes.) When cabbie Frank finally grows a pair and starts ordering

Tess around, her eyes light up and her shoulder straps flip down. It's

a feminist's nightmare, as is the entire play. It's also a comedy of

the ilk George Bernard Shaw might have written had he lived another 100

years, though he probably would have left out the gun, which the

characters spend most of the play ignoring anyway. Of course this is a

joke about hostage plays; it also reveals how the person holding the

gun may not actually possess all the power, especially if there's

enough wit from the playwright and the people who don't hold the gun.

There are enough funny lines to keep an evening of repartee and satire

from imploding, especially under Randall Arney's sure-footed direction,

yet the comedy does skewer one of the most pressing social debates of

the 1980s, like a vehicle that's been spinning in a swamp for some

time. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8

p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 14. (310)

208-5454. (Steven Leigh Morris)

FENCES August Wilson's sixth entry in his Pittsburgh Cycle, set in

the 1950s. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Wed., Sun., 7:30 p.m.;

thru Feb. 21. (714) 708-5555.

GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira

Gershwin, starring Hershey Felder. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon

Road, Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8

p.m.; thru Feb. 21, www.lagunaplayhouse.com. (949) 497-2787.

HOT FLASH! Jenifer Lewis' one-woman show, written by Mark Alton

Brown and Jenifer Lewis. L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Renberg Theatre,

1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Sat., 7:30 p.m.; thru March 6. (323)

860-7302.

NEW REVIEW GO NORTH ATLANTIC James Strahs'

play is set in 1983 aboard a U.A. aircraft carrier floating somewhere

off the Dutch coast, where post WWII and Cold War paranoia has resulted

in this intelligence-gathering operation among enlisted men and women.

REDCAT, 631 W. Second Street, downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; through February 21. (213) 237-2800. The Wooster Group. See

Theater feature.

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.

POST OFFICE Staged reading of the mail musical, book and lyrics by

Melissa James Gibson, music by Michael Friedman. Kirk Douglas Theatre,

9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Through Feb. 21, 8 p.m.. (213)

628-2772.

THE PRICE Arthur Miller's 1968 play about estranged brothers

disposing of their dead parents' property. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga

Blvd. West, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21. (323)

851-7977.

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.

SOUVENIR The fascinating idea at the heart of Stephen Temperley's

bio-comedy is the gaping divide between the music we hear in our

hearts, and that same music heard by those around us. In the early 20th

century, Florence Foster Jenkins made a career as an opera diva in New

York, evidently oblivious to the fact that she couldn't sing. Not only

could she not manufacture a note anywhere near what others would call

on pitch, she also couldn't hear the mocking laughter of her audiences.

According to Temperley's play, she was in love with the music she heard

in her head, as well as the fame it brought her via record sales and

concert appearances. This is what makes the imperious stridency of

Constance Hauman's performance as Jenkins so endearing. Unfortunately,

every interesting insight the play offers is overly narrated by her

accompanist, Cosmo McMoon (Brent Schindele, who's terrific on the baby

grand that anchors Mike Jespersen's set), and the two-character drama

hangs on his moral struggle and failure to tell his employer the truth,

and thereby cash in on her delusions. Even with its elegant production

design, including a NYC skyline that pops up when needed via slide

projections, and Nick McCord's delicate lighting design, Gregg W.

Brevvort's production is a one-trick pony. In her various songs and

arias, rather than pursuing the elusive notes, which would create an

excruciating tension from a musical game of cat and mouse, Hauman is

(deliberately) seven miles away, and remains so. Meanwhile, Schindele's

accompanist too often mugs his expressions of horror, when a more

muted, droll response would not only be funnier, but it would

underscore his hidden agenda. The result is one very obvious joke about

the essences of delusion, which are anything but obvious. (Steven Leigh

Morris). Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (818) 955-8101.

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE Music and lyrics by

William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman,

choreography by DJ Gray, musical direction by David O, directed by Jeff

Maynard. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada

Blvd., La Mirada; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., 8

p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (562) 944-9801.

GO WRECKS The loaded situation in writer-director

Neil LaBute's "love story" allows for a kind of velvet glove to reach

inside one's heart, and then swirls around the intestines for a while

before making its withdrawal. This leaves us, well, touched -- but in a

way that's far from sentimental. Ed Harris stars in this monologue, set

in a Northern Illinois funeral home. His wife's casket -- her photo

perched on its lid -- forms the centerpiece of Sibyl Wickersheimer's

set. Cricket S. Meyers' sound design offers the whispers and echoes of

voices in an anteroom, where our bereaved widower, Ed Carr (Harris),

ostensibly floats -- that would be his public self. But that's not what

we're seeing. He refers to himself being "back there" with "them" while

he speaks to us through the mirror of his subconscious. What we get is

his real eulogy, with the secrets he won't tell them, because he's a

private person, he insists. (He won't tell us some secrets, such as his

wife's final four words, either.) He has a blazingly clear reason to be

so private, which is the melodramatic revelation near play's end, which

forces us to confront the definition of love, and how that definition

rubs up against social propriety. I didn't buy that revelation, not

within the colloquial, ruminative and realistic confines of LaBute's

direction. But that's a small matter. The big matter is the gorgeous

combination of LaBute's digressive and piercingly insightful love

letter with Harris' tender-furious childlike and ultimately profound

interpretation. Ed Carr is a bit like a chain-smoking Dostoyevskian

narrator, who, while drifting onto free-associated topics and bilious

commentary (on anti-smoking campaigns, for example), he is, finally, on

message. And his message about the essence of love is upsetting and

unimpeachable in the same breath. (Steven Leigh Morris). Geffen

Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8

p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru March 7. (310) 208-5454.

A WRINKLE IN TIME South Coast Rep's original adaptation of Madeleine

L'Engle's young adult novel. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center

Dr., Costa Mesa; Sat., 11 a.m., 2 & 4:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 4:30

p.m.; Fri., Feb. 19, 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (714) 708-5555.

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

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., betwn. Highland & Las Palmas aves., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., www.accomplicetheshow.com...

ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity

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

Sat., 7 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

ACME 2NITE New sketches and old favorites, ACME style. Acme Comedy

Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 9 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

AN ACT OF REPARATION G.K. Chesterton Theatre Company presents the

world premiere of Irish playwright Cathal Gallagher's play. Odyssey

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

p.m.; thru March 7. (310) 477-2055.

NEW REVIEW THE ANTARCTIC CHRONICLES

Stage Raw: Theater Folk (Shockingly) Spin into TV and Film!

In his documentary Encounters at the End of the World,

Werner Herzog described the denizens of Antarctica's McMurdo base as

wanderers who tumbled down to the South Pole for lack of roots

attaching them to anywhere sane. Jessica Manuel doesn't seem to fit the

profile: the perky Minnesotan homecoming queen left home, family and

boyfriend to spend a year cranking fuel valves in the Antarctic's -80 F

permanent midnight. Why? To escape the normalcy she saw as a noose. Her

solo show traffics in the exotic mundane -- it's an insider scoop on

what the heck people eat, drink and do at the bottom of the earth

(Answer: Tater Tots, booze, and harass the newbies.) Directed by Paul

Linke, Manuel tells her story in a cheerleader's squeal. Thematically,

it's as thin as ice, but Manuel dishes on the slow onset of winter

insanity and shares how the total snow madness boredom inspired

Herzog's gang of adventurers to start their own theater troupe. Hudson

Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru

March 10. (323) 960-7744. (Amy Nicholson)


AS THE GLOBE WARMS Heather Woodbury's improv story of small-town

America colliding with the World Wide Web. Echo Curio, 1519 Sunset

Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (213) 977-1279.

GO BAAL Peter Mellencamp's adaptation of Bertolt

Brecht's early, poetical drama is about the cruelty and demise of a

bacchanalian poet who recognizes, curses and is cursed by

civilization's thin veneer. Ben Rock's staging is sometimes forced,

more often intense and seductive, with Gregory Sims' growling title

character bearing a physical resemblance to young Al Pacino but with a

voice like Tom Waits. (Steven Leigh Morris). Sacred Fools Theater, 660

N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 20,

www.vimeo.com/8382742. (310) 281-8337.

BARBRA'S WEDDING Daniel Stern's comedy about Barbra Streisand's

Malibu neighbors. Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 28, 2 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 2 p.m.; thru

March 7, www.barbraswedding.com. (866) 811-4111.

BEWARE OF CUPID Julia Cho directs a collection of original scenes

and monologues all about love. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St.,

L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 21,

www.bewareofcupid.com. (323) 874-1733.

GO BLOOD AND THUNDER 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, still wearing 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 of Marcus'

emotional abuse. Sara Wagner directs. (Amy Nicholson). Moving Arts,

1822 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb.

28. (323) 666-3259.

BOB BAKER MARIONETTE THEATER'S FIESTA First of five classic Bob

Baker productions in a yearlong celebration of the marionette theater's

50th anniversary. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St.,

L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru April 11,

www.bobbakermarionettes.com. (213) 250-9995.

THE BOB BENDICK PODCAST . Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., 5:15 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

GO BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA When Bob Rauschenberg's

mother (Mari Marks) delivers her tender slide-show about the rural

Texas childhood of her artist son, and none of the slides matches the

descriptions she's offered, you have to know something's up,

conceptually. Whether or not you're familiar with the '50s-'60s

collagist painter-sculptor, Charles L. Mee's 2001 extrapolation of what

Rauschenberg might have written in order to explain how he assembled

junk into evocative reflections on our place in the world stands alone.

Marina Mouhibian's set decorates the stage and the proscenium walls

with vintage kitsch as the 10-member ensemble plays out a series of

somewhat interconnecting sketches about romances gone awry, violence,

politics and metaphysics - though there are digressions for a series of

chicken jokes. Bart DeLorenzo's staging preserves the tone, inherent

the text, that's both wry and frivolous, abstract and pop, with one

breakout poetical excursion into Walt Whitmanesque grandeur, delivered

by a hobo (Brett Hren) and accompanied by Dvorak's Symphony from The

New World. (Steven Leigh Morris). [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga

Blvd. E., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb.

28. (323) 461-3673.

BROAD COMEDY "Six irreverent and hilarious, multi-talented women,

known for high-energy musical numbers, left-wing politics, women's

issues, and R-rated shenanigans about, well, women's shenanigans.".

Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru

March 25. (323) 525-0202.

CALLIOPE ROSE Bill Sterritt's mythological comedy. Studio/Stage, 520

N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 7.

(323) 463-3900.

NEW REVIEW CATCH THE TIGER

Photo courtesy of Dramastage Qumran

Vicki Robinson plays a denizen/chanteuse in a NYC diner, and when

she breaks into song, for a blues ditty or a ballad, Melvin Ishmael

Johnson's biodrama about Jamaican-born black separatist Marcus Garvey

(Isaac Clay) springs to life - particularly with the great supporting

sound system. Robinson's voice caresses and slithers, alternating

between gentleness and power. It's the kind of modulation that's

desperately needed in Johnson's play, and McNeil's staging of it. The

plot starts in 1916, when what would have been the 21-year-old J. Edgar

Hoover (Daniel Taylor), was newly appointed to the Justice Department,

obsessed on bringing charges against Garvey, and getting him deported.

The play shows what Hoover and the FBI are famous for, infiltration and

betrayal. Garvey is "the Tiger" though all he does is wander around the

stage and make speeches, culminating with the phrase "Africa for

Africans" -- repeated at least four times. It's also in the program, in

case you missed it from the stage. The hollow speechifying seems

sufficient to earn Garvey the adoration of most of the characters in

the play, as well as the contempt of J. Edgar Hoover, played by Smith

with a cadaverous comportment and the hesitant delivery of someone who

doesn't quite know what we wants, or why. So if the cat and his

would-be slayer are both so inert, there's little else to say. The

Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru

Feb. 21. (323) 850-4436. A Dramastage Qumran production. (Steven Leigh

Morris)


THE COFFEE CLUB World premiere of David R. Zimmerman's drama about

clients at a group therapy session. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St.,

L.A.; Mon.-Wed., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 28, 5 p.m.; thru

March 6. (323) 469-3113.

COMEDY DEATH-RAY $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Tues., 8:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

GO CONFUSIONS Alan Ayckborn's 1974 slate of five

one-acts, under John Pleshette's tight direction of an exemplary cast,

illustrates the comical consequences when we choose not to listen to

each other. In "Mother Figure," a quarreling couple (Steve Wilcox and

Abigail Revasch) have to revert to childhood in order to connect with

each other during an encounter with a formidably maternal neighbor

(Mina Badie). "Drinking Companions" offers us a traveling salesman

(Brendan Hunt) in a hotel bar masking his loneliness with pathetic yet

hilarious attempts at seducing two increasingly harried young women

(Revasch and Phoebe James). What a waiter (Hunt) hears is all that we

hear too in "Between Mouthfuls," as dialogue of one dining couple

(Adrian Neil and Bridget Ann White) is intercut with that of another

(Wilcox and Jones), slyly revealing a salacious secret. "Gosforth's

Fete" turns into a debacle as the organizer of a charity event (Neil)

learns a secret from a local teacher (Badie) that wreaks havoc for him

and the teacher's fiancé (Hunt). And in "A Talk in the Park," a quintet

of disparate folks (Hunt, James, Neil, White and Wilcox) finds their

desperate attempts to connect with each other sadly falling on deaf

ears. (Martín Hernández). 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.

COOL NEGROES The opening tableau of writer-director Tony Robinson's

"dramedy of generational proportion" is a tumbledown city park circa

1972, where a raucous cadre of black militants is protesting

segregation. The revolutionary banter and posturing are soon silenced

by police gunfire and falling bodies. After this jarring scene, a

flash-forward takes us to the present day, when the park is a haunt for

a group of regulars: college professor Louis (Sammie Wayne, IV); former

flower child Deborah (Teressa Taylor) ; city bureaucrat Joe (Alex

Morris); a gay cop named Mod (Mark Jones); the only caucasian in the

group, Eric (Tom Hyler); a buppie named Al ( Dane Diamond); and the

irrepressible Mother Barnes (the fine Diane Sellers), a blind sage. Not

much transpires here; there is a lot of talking, which, thanks to

Robinson's wit and ear for dialogue, somewhat allays the play's static

structure. But one gets the feeling that these entertaining characters

overstay their welcome, thanks to a script that is overwritten and

languorous. From the mix, Robinson constructs a flimsy storyline about

black advancement, interracial romance, political correctness,

spiritual redemption, the burden of guilt, and generational angst and

conflict. Unfortunately, these motifs are neither skillfully nor

insightfully probed. The acting is mostly passable, but Sellers is

outstanding. Rounding out the cast are Prema Rosaura Cruz, Tené Carter

Miller and Leslie La'Raine. A Towne Street Theatre production (Lovell

Estell III). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 465-4446.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON The Berubian Company interprets Pink

Floyd. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.;

Sun., 9:30 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 850-7827.

DITCH Taylor Coffman's "humorous look at the trials and tribulations

of love.". Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.plays411.com/ditch. (323)

960-7787.

GO EXILES Playwright Carlos Lacamara's drama puts a

powerful human face on the Mariel boat lift, Fidel Castro's mean joke

of 1980, when Cuban-Americans were invited to come to Cuba to fetch

their loved ones, to take them to the Land of Opportunity but were

instead subjected to a painful bait and switch. Cuban-American mechanic

Rolando (Alex Fernandez) sails his rickety boat to Cuba, believing he's

going to be bringing his beloved mother to his American home. Instead,

the authorities force him to take Rolando's pompous brother-in-law,

Joaquin (Lacamara), Joaquin's sullen daughter, Sadia (Heather Hemmens),

and some other extra treats -- a maniac (Khary Payton) and a murderer

(Mark Adair-Rios). Midway through the voyage, the boat's motor breaks

and tensions flare amongst the passengers. Rolando's teenage son Roli

(Ignacio Serricchio) falls for Sadia, while Rolando and his

brother-in-law fight over long-ago wrongs. Then the murderer makes his

move. In David Fofi's emotionally rich, character-driven production the

conflicts brew and simmer, aided by the claustrophobic mood provided by

John Iocavelli's beautifully rickety boat set. The show's pacing sags

occasionally, particularly toward the end, which feels inordinately

drawn out -- and the breakdown of the boat seems like a forced plot

development to keep the characters from being able to get anywhere.

Yet, the the play's emotions crackle, and the piece brims with real

fury and regret, whether it's the anger of Fernandez's excellently

rigid Rolando, or the snappishness of Hemmens' snide but vulnerable

Sadia, forced to abruptly uproot her life. Payton's haunting turn as

the maniac, whose lunacy, we discover, springs from years of torture,

also stands out. Hayworth Theater in association with Fixed Mark

Productions. (Paul Birchall). Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 960-4442.

FAT, BALD & LOUD Craig Ricci Shaynak and his Giant Wheel of

Accents and Dialects. Dorie Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323)

960-5773.

GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER Neither a major nor even a very

memorable member of the Sam Shepard canon, this 1974 script dates from

the London-exile period in which Shepard was still trying to crack the

nut of the beginning-middle-end dramatic structure. Which means it

belongs to a handful of tween plays that share little of the poetical

fireworks of the '60s or the craft and thematic riches of his

post-Pulitzer prize work. Nevertheless, Shepard did write Geography of a Horse Dreamer

as a comedy, and that's where director Jamie Wollrab and the playwright

part company. Kris Lemche is Cody, a Wyoming cowboy whose onetime

ability to dream horse-race winners has turned into a losing streak

after he's kidnapped and imprisoned by gamblers Beaujo (John Markland)

and Santee (the fine Scoot McNairy). When effete mob boss Fingers (an

inspired Dov Tiefenbach) demotes the men to the dog tracks, Cody's

prognosticative powers are temporarily restored but at the cost of his

sanity, which leads Fingers' cadaverous, henchman/quack, the Doctor

(Thurn Hoffman), to salvage Cody's valuable "dreaming bone" by cutting

it out of the back of his neck. Essentially a seduction-of-the-artist

allegory embroidered by a pastiche of plot and character archetypes

from vintage Warner Bros. gangster melodramas, Shepard's surrealist

aims -- along with their intended laughs -- are all but lost in

Wollrab's realistic mise-en-scne and some wildly uneven

performances. (Bill Raden). Moth Theatre, 4359 Melrose Ave., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6, www.brownpapertickets.com. (323)

666-2296.

GRAVITYWORKS L.A. premiere of creator-director-producer Russell

Boast's cabaret that's "part comedy troupe/part vaudeville act/part

kick-ass music.". Cinespace, 6356 Hollywood Blvd., Second Level, L.A.;

Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 25, www.gravityworkstheshow.com. (800)

838-3006.

GROUNDLINGS SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN All-new sketch and improv, directed by

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

Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru April 24. (323) 934-9700.

THE HAPPY HAPPY SHOW April Hava Shenkman hosts this anything-goes

comedy cabaret., free. El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m..

(323) 668-0318.

JUST A SONG AT TWILIGHT Willard Manus has chosen an interesting

subject -- growing up in a Jewish household with a deaf mother in the

years of 1928-1942 -- but his autobiographical script seldom gains

momentum. Henriette (Lene Pedersen) and her older sister Marion (Janne

Halleskov Kindberg) hoped for singing careers, but both lose their

hearing in early adulthood. The play centers on the plight of

Henriette, her self-proclaimed Bolshevik husband, Izzy (Ilia Volok),

and their son, Ben (Michael Hampton), who yearns to try out for the

Giants before he's sent off to World War II. Stifling any sense of a

dramatic trajectory, every scene introduces new and different thematic

materials: a discourse on ear surgery in the 1920s; a debate over the

relative merits of lipreading versus sign language; an argument about

capitalism versus communism; rivalry between sisters;, father-son

conflicts;, a lesson in lipreading taught by an amorous teacher (Darin

Dahms); and a wartime romance between Ben and his girlfriend (Julie

Bersani). All these elements could be combined in a successful drama,

but here they don't mesh. There's good work by the cast, but director

John DiFusco isn't able to focus the play's rambling structure. Songs

of the times and a historical slide show do provide evocative period

flavor. (Neal Weaver). Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sun..; thru Feb. 27. (323) 469-3113.

KEEP IT CLEAN COMEDY Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House,

1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.

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 April 25. (323) 960-4412.

THE LOST TOMB OF KING SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv, directed by

Karen Maruyama. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30

p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

LOVE BITES - VOL. 9 The Elephant Theatre Company's annual short-play festival, including Reality Romcom: Day 98 With My Attained Pixie Dreamgirl by Kerry Carney; This Little Piggy by Marek Glinski; Empowerment by Dominic Rains; Surprise by Mark Harvey Levine; Most Likely by Gloria Calderon Kellett; Tag by Tony Foster; Rox-N, Miss Thang by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich; Hard

by Steven Korbar. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way, L.A.; Sun., 7

p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 14, www.plays411.com/lovebites.

(323) 960-4410.

LOVE WRITTEN IN THE STARS Magnum Opus Theatre stages an awful

unsolicited screenplay. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr.,

L.A.; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 281-8337.

MALINCHE The life and influence of Malintzin Tepenal by Victor Hugo

Rascon Banda. (Alternating perfs in English and Spanish; call for

schedule.). Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.fridakahlotheater.org. (213)

382-8133.

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.

M.O.I.S.T.! 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.

NAKED IN THE TROPICS Writer/director/producer Odalys Nanin's play

(with a few songs by Nanin and Daniel Indart) focuses on lesbian

immigration lawyer Alicia (Nanin), who is embarking on a love affair

with the beautiful Isis (Natalie Salins). But Isis has a teenage son,

Andy (Carlos Moreno, Jr.), and Andy is a very busy boy. In addition to

impregnating his girlfriend, Linda (Castille Landon), he has also

teamed up with Joe (Daniel Rivera), who introduces him to performing

seminude (in faintly obscene peekaboo loincloths), gay sex, drugs and

drug dealing. When Joe frames Andy to take the fall in a drug arrest,

the boy is threatened with deportation to Cuba -- though he was born in

the U.S. Lawyer Alicia must defend him in court, where her defense

hinges on finding the midwife (drag performer Carey Embry, who plays

the role as a Kate Hepburn wannabe, complete with accent, mannerisms

and the Hepburn quiver) who delivered him, just north of the Mexican

border. Nanin's predictable soap-opera script combines countless genres

-- including lesbian romance, boylesk, after-school special, musical

and courtroom drama -- to very little purpose, and the author's slack

direction doesn't help. The cast strives mightily to score with thinly

written characters who are trapped within the lackluster material.

(Neal Weaver). Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 960-1057.

NEW REVIEW ON CARING FOR THE BEAST

Stage Raw: Theater Folk (Shockingly) Spin into TV and Film!

Photo by Ricardo Miranda

The average layperson planning to see director-playwright Shishir

Kurup's somewhat bewildering metaphysical fantasy would be well-advised

to bring along a beginner's guide to Dharmic religious traditions. For

Kurup's heady, 2001 dramatic excavation of the meanings of truth -- the

modern corruptions as well as the more ancient, unadulterated

permutations -- is virtually awash in the symbology, deities and

philosophy of Tantric and Jainist mysticism. The latest entry in

Cornerstone Theater's ongoing Justice Cycle opens in the subdivided

home of landlord/earth mother/amateur trance-channeler Mae (Page

Leong), whose domestic tranquility is quickly turning into a world of

hurt. Her gay tenant Charlie's (Marcenus "MC" Earl) terminal bone

disease has just entered its painful, chronic phase, which drives his

desperate, university-professor lover, Art (Michael Cooke), to

undertake a crash course in psychic healing. Neighbor Alissa's (Bahni

Turpin) book-project profile of the enigmatic Dr. Narayan (Amro

Salama), a repentant, U.S.-trained military torturer, sends her and

musician boyfriend Sean (Justin Gordon) into the masochistic deep end

in their quest to mentally transcend physical suffering. The lives of

all concerned are unexpectedly turned upside-down when Mae accidentally

channels the mother goddess, Kali, and the house is blasted with a bolt

of her creative energy. Though the play's spiritual speculations can

plod and even overwhelm, for we cynical, secular humanists, Kurup's

elegant staging (featuring designer Tom Ontiveros' lovely lights and

video projections) and a world-class ensemble prove the perfect sugar

to help the New Age go down. Inner City Arts, 720 Kohler St., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 24,

www.CornerstoneTheater.org. (213) 627-9621. A Cornerstone Theater

production. (Bill Raden)

GO ORPHEUS DESCENDING Lou Pepe stages Tennessee

Williams' study of a singer-songwriter, Val Xavier (Gale Harold) who

wanders into a Southern mercantile shop, a reluctant seducing machine

living in and belonging to a different world. Being both a updated

interpretation of the Orpheus' visit to the underworld, with Biblical

allusions heavily laced into the plot, Williams' saga is study in the

how the otherworldy artist becomes scapegoated and sacrificed to the

prosaic reality of the here-and-now. The theater is a bit of an echo

chamber, and Brandon Baruch's murky lighting doesn't really help Pepe's

decisions to eliminate distracting details such as walls and knicknacks

in order to place us inside Val Xavier elevated head and heart. That

said, the ensemble saves and elevates the event, particularly Denise

Crosby, Claudia Mason and Francesca Casale as the women whose hearts

become wrenched by the musician in the house. (Steven Leigh Morris).

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.

PARADISE STREET Title3 is a new company dedicated to giving women

strong, unusual, fascinating roles. For its first production, it has

chosen Constance Congdon's dark sociological piece about class

resentment and privilege. Jane (Molly Leland), a brilliant, assured and

beautiful professor of gender and semiotics -- who drops phrases like

"the nomenclature of the patriarchal case for hegemony" as easily as

ordering a club sandwich -- has just moved to a small college town with

her self-centered, elderly mother (Danielle Kennedy). Just before the

semester starts, Jane's battered into a coma by a homeless woman (Lane

Allison, in a menacing portrayal), who's bitter over being one of

society's invisibles. As Jane struggles to make at best a partial

recovery from irreversible brain damage, her attacker steals Jane's

identity, and is delighted to find that she's treated as an icon. It's

true: The haves get more while the have-nots suffer. The mechanics of

Congdon's plot don't make a lick of sense, but we're hooked by the

premise, and by director Courtney Munch's great ensemble -- filled out

by Jiehae Park, Jane Montosi and Lorene Chesley in a variety of roles.

By intermission, however, the play has made its point. It nonetheless

continues to pad along, wedging in scenes in which a Puerto Rican

social worker shows Jane's mother how to use a Kegel exerciser, one of

Montosi's characters silently mops an entire floor, and the homeless

attacker babysits her publisher's drug-addicted daughter. To paraphrase

a program note, Congdon needs to appraise this two-and-a-half hour

muddle and chip away everything that doesn't look like the very smart

play about class tensions buried inside. (Amy Nicholson). The Attic

Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 525-0661.

THE PEACOCK MEN Deconstructing American masculinity can be a sticky

thicket even in the best of analyses. Add to the mix issues of race and

representation, however, and its order of complexity increases

exponentially. So it's no surprise that playwright Ronald McCants'

idea-packed, satiric foray into the psychic minefield of black male

identity can be as profoundly disorienting as it is provocative. For

McCants' hapless cast of circus-performing Peacock Men --

African-Americans who, like their brilliantly plumed namesake, have

been domesticated into gender-warped docility -- the ride is also

downright deadly. One performer, Robert Mapplethorpe's horse-hung the

Man in the Polyester Suit (Hari Williams), has already succumbed after

his reduction to an erotically objectified exhibit and his mysterious

disappearance by the sadistic, white-faced Ringmaster, Steve (Will

Dixon). So when avaricious street rapper Cash (Chris P. Daniels) signs

on as a replacement, he finds himself with a job both physically and

existentially more perilous than he bargained for. Turns out Steve's

circus is more of a torture fun house in which Cash and his cohorts

(John J. Jordan & Michael A. Thompson) are subjected to

humiliations and acts of violence scripted right out of real-world

headlines (Rodney King, Amadou Diallo, etc.). While Ayana Cahrr's

staging loses crucial dramatic momentum during some of the play's

lengthier, overly didactic passages, McCants' nightmare vaudeville

proves a field day for its terrifically talented ensemble. (Bill

Raden). Company of Angels, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 7. (323) 883-1717.

THE PHARMACIST Written and performed by Jane Russell. Dorie Theater

at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.plays411.com/thepharmacist. (323) 960-5773.

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS: THE ANCIENT AUSTRALIAN ART OF GENITAL ORIGAMI

Extra-bendy male performers twist their private parts into shocking

works of art ála balloon animals. Warning: Not for kids, and probably

not for most adults., $45-$39. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica

Blvd., West Hollywood; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 7 & 9:30

p.m.; Sun., 5 & 7:30 p.m.; thru March 14...

NEW REVIEW SEASCAPE WITH SHARKS AND DANCER

While walking on a Cape Cod beach, writer Ben (Matthew Hannon) spots a

naked young woman, Tracy (Christine Weatherup), floundering in the sea.

He pulls her ashore, and takes her back to his rundown beach house to

recuperate -- but she's far from grateful. She wasn't drowning, she

claims, but dancing. Despite the fact that she's rude, arrogant,

selfish and demanding, he's enchanted, and after some hot chocolate and

sparring, they tumble into bed. Dan Nigro's play starts out as a kooky

"meet cute" comedy, then segues into a quietly harrowing portrait of a

certain kind of destructive relationship. She's convinced that no one

can love her, and therefore he'll inevitably leave her. So she

constantly threatens to leave him, but never does, and he cares for her

enough to endure the pain and uncertainty she inflicts on him.

Weatherup's Tracy is an emotionally volatile woman riddled with

conflicts, manipulative, and pathologically self-destructive, while

Hannon's Ben is reduced to pure victim and enabler because of his

refusal to fight back. Director Benjamin Haber Kamine elicits

persuasive performances from his actors, and keeps the proceedings

interesting, though a sharper focus on Ben's character might have made

for a better balance. Studio/Stage, 520 North Western Avenue, Los

Angeles; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m., Sun. Feb. 21 & 28, 8 p.m.; thru March

5 http://www.sharksanddancer.com/tickets (Neal Weaver)

SIT 'N' SPIN Storytelling by Jill Soloway, Maggie Rowe, Jaclyn Lafer

and assorted guests of varying hilarity., free. COMEDY CENTRAL STAGE,

6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Every other Thursday, 8 p.m.,

www.sitnspin.org. (323) 960-5519.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION Knightsbridge Theatre's "Greek chorus"

adaptation of John Guare's drama. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside

Dr., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 667-0955.

GO STAGE DOOR In 1936, when Edna Ferber and George

S. Kaufman's comedy and homage to The Theater (that would be Broadway)

showed the divide between the legit stage and the vulgar movie biz in

Hollywood (an industry where "You only have to learn a line at a time

and they just keep taking it until you get it," and "You don't even

have to be alive to be in the pictures,"), the authors were playing off

an East Coast/West Coast divide. How strangely apt, then, that the play

may now speak more to L.A. theater, and its ongoing love-hate

relationship with Hollywood, than to the Broadway of yore. If you think

this revival is just a valentine to a bygone era, think again. This

week, the Pasadena Playhouse is closing its doors. The year after Stage Door

premiered on Broadway, the Pasadena Playhouse was named the State

Theater of California. It had, in its 12-year existence, produced the

entire Shakespearean canon, as well as 500 new plays. In August 1937,

Tempe E. Allison described the Playhouse in The New York Times,

as "theatrical refreshment in this dust bowl, if not desert, of the

legitimate stage, which has been sucked dry by the gigantic growth of

its next-door neighbor, Hollywood." Though that kind of mythology has

shifted over the decades, and our legitimate stage is anything but a

dust bowl, the authors' portrayal of the theater as a somewhat quixotic

and poverty-stricken home for actresses placing an odds-defying bet on

a rare moment of spiritual fulfillment has a current sting of truth,

even after more than 70 years. The home, here, is a boardinghouse for

actresses called The Footlights Club. Some like Louis (Katy

Tyszkiewicz) are surrendering into marriages they dread while others,

like pretty Jean Maitland (Kim Swennen), get swept away by Hollywood

and one of its dapper producers, David Kingsley (Arthur Hanket).

Problem is, pretty Jean can't really act, even though she's thriving

out West as cover-girl material in a land where artists become

employees for hire -- and often they're hired to sit around in the sun.

This theory is tested when Jean gets shoveled back by the Studio to

star on Broadway -- a cynical marketing ploy. Mephistophelean Kingsley,

dripping with self-loathing (a nice turn by Hacket), pushes to replace

Jean with his own flame, Terry Randall (a smart, sensitive portrayal by

Amanda Weier). Terry, who has talent, has no desire for Hollywood and

its games. In her deft and stylish staging of a cast that tops two

dozen, Barbara Schofield pits the brunette Terry against blond Jean,

the talented against the talentless. Terry had been dating a lefty

playwright (Matt Roe) who sold out his pedantically stated ideals

quicker than it now takes to swipe a credit card. This production comes

on the heels of last year's Light Up the Sky, demonstrating

that this company's firm grip on smart, sassy period comedies. Detailed

set by James Spencer and Shon LeBlanc's textured costumes further feed

the ambiance. (Steven Leigh Morris). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13,

www.openfist.org. (323) 882-6912.

THROW LIKE A GIRL Bill Becker's transgender portrait. Gardner

Stages, 1501 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru Feb. 21. (323) 876-1501.

NEW REVIEW TITUS ANDRONICUS

Stage Raw: Theater Folk (Shockingly) Spin into TV and Film!

Photo by Kiff Scholl

Heads are chopped off. A woman, after being raped, has her hands

severed and tongue ripped away. Babies are impaled on knives. And, at a

special feast, a malicious woman is served her sons, baked in a pie.

Yes, here is proof (if needed) that Shakespeare could actually get

hired today as a staff writer for CSI: New York. Director

Thomas Craig Elliot's somber production of Shakespeare's epic of pulp

fiction possesses a murky, intimate mood that has you feeling like

you're watching atrocities unfolding in an urban back alley. The

creepy, almost claustrophobic tone is abetted by designer Erin

Brewster's calculatedly grubby set - brick walls, with shadowy

platforms full of mysterious dark pits and doorways. Roman noble Titus

Andronicus (Dan Mailley) returns to his home, triumphant after war with

the Goths, and helps to install oily politician Saturninus (Brad C.

Light) as emperor. Titus' reward for this? Saturninus humiliates him by

marrying Tamora (Sarah Lilly), the very same warrior queen whom

Andronicus just defeated and enslaved. Tamora's sons then rape and

mutilate Titus's daughter Lavinia (Erin Fleming). Titus then invites

Tamora and family over for a feast - at which revenge is served by the

pie-full. If anything, Elliot's production is slightly too

straightforward and contextually threadbare. Although the dialogue is

articulately rendered, the stagecraft is prosaic and unambitious - the

violence is strangely reigned in and the piece's omnipresent gloom and

grubbiness are simply not sensational enough to spark the horror the

play requires. Admittedly, Elliot commendably emphasizes

characterization, and the staging digs into the text to find

motivations for the coterie of increasingly heartless characters.

Lilly's elegantly wicked Tomara - shifting easily from graciously

sugary to venomously witchy - is a pleasure to watch, and so is Light's

dopey Saturninus - a greasy politician who turns out to be out of his

depth in the wickedness with which he's confronted. Mailley's stiff and

priggish turn during the play's first half is at first offputting, but

his gradual decline into rage and madness becomes compellingly

chilling. Theatre of Note, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 13. (323) 856-8611.

http://theatreofnote.com (Paul Birchall)

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.


TWELFTH NIGHT The idea of traipsing through a dark, damp graveyard on a

weekend night to watch a Shakespeare play may be a daunting prospect,

but at least audiences who attend director Jerry Ruiz's smooth and

energetic production will be assured of seeing an engaging rendition of

one of the Bard's jolliest comedies. The show is actually presented

inside the picturesque (and grave-free) Masonic Lodge on the cemetery

property, which provides a striking, dramatic backdrop for any play.

(The auditorium's beautifully constructed, colorfully decorated ceiling

beams are worth seeing, even aside from the play.) Viola (Hilary Ward)

dresses in drag to serve Count Orsino (Owiso Odera) and falls in love

with him, but the woman Orsino has his eye on, beautiful Olivia (Teri

Reeves), falls for Viola. Meanwhile, Olivia's drunkard uncle, Sir Toby

Belch (Matt Gaydos), and his ne'er-do-well pals play a mean-spirited

prank on Olivia's prissy, Puritan steward, Malvolio (Charles Janasz).

Ruiz's staging is both intelligently introspective and energetic, even

though some of the comic shtick doesn't seem to naturally flow from the

text and feels weakly timed. Still, the production possesses a

commendable clarity, which itself makes it a fine, competently rendered

version of the show. It also boasts some remarkably well-defined

character work. Reeves' nicely brittle Olivia warms amusingly to Ward's

befuddled Viola, while Guilford Adams' glum fool, Feste, plays nicely

off of Gaydos' decadent Sir Toby. However, it's Janasz as the

brilliantly uptight Malvolio, and his ghoulishly hilarious attempts to

woo Olivia all cross-gartered and leering like a gassy jack-o'-lantern,

who truly offers this show's standout performance. Chalk Repertory

Company (Paul Birchall). Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru

Feb. 28, www.chalkrep.com. (800) 838-3006.

WHO IS CURTIS LEE? The titular question of this work by Ashford J.

Thomas (who also plays Curtis Lee) set in 1950s Greensboro, North

Carolina, is sparked by the appearance of a young man in a ramshackle

tavern, who immediately attracts the attention of regulars Herman

(Gerrence George) and Otis (Carl Crudup), as well as owner Joe (Logan

Alexander). Despite his shabby appearance, the visitor, Curtis, claims

to be a songwriter for radio icon Miss Wanda Denise (Kelley Chatman)

and a boxer. Herman and Otis don't buy either story, but Curtis' buying

them drinks keeps them mollified. Unfortunately, Curtis has no money,

bringing him into conflict with the normally staid Joe, who, after

threatening Curtis, takes pity on him and puts him to work.

Complicating this situation are Calvin Hunt (Richard Lewis Warren), a

greedy white developer trying to force Joe to sell the place; Mitchell

(James E. Hurd Jr.), a black gangster to whom Curtis owes money; and

Angel (Paris Rumford), Otis' ironically named promiscuous daughter.

Director L. Flint Esquerra skillfully mines the text's comedy, and Paul

Koslo's weathered set provides an authentic mise-en-scéne. Alexander

shines in his gruff, pained portrayal of Joe, Crudup and George have

solid comic timing, and Hurd Jr. is menacing in his brief appearance.

Thomas delivers the sincerity and hotheaded anger of youth, but his

writing, characterized by powerful, resonant themes, doesn't always

cohere. (Mayank Keshaviah). MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 957-1152.

GO WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE

THEM Christopher Durang's Loony Tunes aesthetic -- with the help of

Daniel Henning's perfectly modulated direction -- is swashed onto our

so-called war on terror. Thank goodness Durang has moved beyond family

dysfunction. Still, you'd think that by now our recent history,

propelled by some deranged might-makes-right cabal from a powerful

coven of loons, has been exhausted by American playwrights. Durang's

outrage and piety, however, are channeled into a breath of comedic

napalm, something like a cross between The Marriage of Bette and Boo

and Dr. Strangelove. Durang has now joined ranks with Dario Fo. Sweet

Felicity (stylish Rhea Seehorn, trying to be sensible in a world with

no sense) wakes up in bed with a stranger, Zamir (Sunil Malhotra),

after a night out at a bar. Turns out, Zamir slipped her a drug, raped

and married her -- none of which she remembers. The "priest" was

Zamir's friend, porno filmmaker Reverend Mike (Nicholas Brendon, sort

of like Owen Wilson with a slow-mo brain). Zamir has anger-management

issues and feels badly that most of the women in his family are dead.

This is cold comfort for Felicity. Yet she finds herself compelled to

defend her "husband" when her Dick Cheney-emulating father, Leonard

(Mike Genovese) -- a volunteer in the "shadow government" -- drags

Zamir him into the torture chamber he'd been claiming is a private

closet for his butterfly collection. Narrator and power drill-wielding

torture-room assistant Loony Tunes (Alec Mapa) encourages Leonard to

"bweak a finger, bweak a finger" -- all of which is based on a

misunderstanding by Leonard's spy, Hildegard (Catherine Hicks, spending

a good portion of the play with underwear swishing around her ankles),

who overhearing Zamir's conversation about a porno movie believes he's

describing a terrorist plot. Durang reruns the ending a couple of

times, trying to capture the moment where it all -- "it" being the sad

plight of our country -- went so wrong. I particularly enjoyed

Christine Estabrook as Leonard's blissed-out, seething wife, Luella,

who can't stop talking about the theater, even while torture is being

committed upstairs, because theater is what's "real." And what has she

seen lately? "Two-hundred fifty plays by Martin McDonagh and David

Hare." Britain of course dominates our theater's new plays, obviously

because "Americans are stupid." Durang is getting a lot off his chest,

and off ours. The laughter he generates is from nonsense about

nonsense, unnervingly true and cathartic, and beautifully performed.

(Steven Leigh Morris). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd.,

L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 14,

www.TheBlank.com. (323) 661-9827.

WIREHEAD The Echo Theater Company presents the world premiere of a

new play by Matthew Benjamin and Logan Brown. Stage 52 Theatre, 5299 W.

Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 14.

(800) 413-8669.

WISEGUYS Scenes from Casino, Carlito's Way, Bronx Tale, Scarface, Goodfellas, Raging Bull and The Godfather.

Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A.; Wed.,

8 p.m.; thru March 3, www.hollywoodfightclub.com. (323) 465-0800.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

BAGELS Art Shulman's senior romance. Secret Rose Theater, 11246

Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

March 21, www.secretrose.com. (877) 620-7673.

GO CIRCUS WELT Reminiscent of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret (though sans music), this adaptation by director and producer Pavel Cerny of Leonid Andreyev's 1914 Russian play, He Who Gets Slapped,

shifts the setting to Weimar Germany circa 1933. A small traveling

circus run by Ludwig Bricke (John Moskal) and his common-law

wife/lion-tamer, Maria (Stephanie T. Keefer), serves as a haven for

those at the margins of society: Jackson (Jeff Williams), a black

American clown in whiteface; Tilly and Polly (Justin Hertner and Lee

Biolos), a long-standing gay couple; Bezano (Patrick Koffel), the

communist horse trainer; and the newly arrived mysterious clown named

He (an impressively nuanced Joshua Grenrock). As the story, which takes

place entirely in the circus dressing room, unfolds, multiple love

triangles emerge, though the one of greatest consequence involves

Bezano, Maria and the bareback rider Consuelo (Tanya Goott), who is

engaged by her father Count Mancini (Kurt Hargan) to the wealthy Baron

Von Reinhardt (Ed Brigadier), the head of the local SA storm troopers.

While the remaining vestiges of the original melodrama detract from

what could be an extremely compelling piece of theater, Cerny has done

his best to minimize them, and his Brechtian-style entr'acte additions,

such as the "news clowns," provide girding for the menacing backdrop of

Nazi Germany on the rise. An Orpheum Theater Corporation Production.

(Mayank Keshaviah). Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman

Oaks; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (866) 811-4111.

THE CITY Director Stan Mazin's adaptation and update of Clyde

Fitch's 1909 play has a lot going for it. That said, references to Lady

Gaga and Desperate Housewives can't disguise the fact that it's an

overly talky melodrama. Act 1 takes place in Middlebrook, where wealthy

patriarch George Sr. (Klair Bybee) holds forth on the values of small

town life. However, his wife Molly (Kady Douglas), daughters Megan

(Trisha Hershberger) and Teresa (Jaclyn Marfuggi), and especially his

son, George Jr. (Hector Hank), are bucking for the lights and

excitement of New York City. Interloper Fred Hannock (Glenn Collins)

comes to blackmail George Sr. over financial improprieties, and before

his unexpected demise, George Sr. reveals to George Jr. that Hannock is

his half-brother. The overly long Act 2 takes place five years later in

the family's new abode in New York City, where George Jr. is hoping to

secure his party's nomination for senator. Lawyer Burt Vorhees (Bix

Barnaba) begins the vetting process, asking George Jr. to pressure

Teresa not to divorce her playboy husband (Alexander Leeb). But a

bigger problem is how to get rid of the drug addicted Hannock who's

been installed as George Jr.'s secretary. Mazin marshals the cast well,

but some of the acting is uneven. Trefoni Michael Rizzi's plush scenic

design can't be faulted. (Sandra Ross). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory

Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.thegrouprep.com. (818) 700-4878.

THE COLUMBINE PROJECT Paul Storiale directs an all-new cast in his

play about the Columbine high school massacre. Avery Schreiber Theater,

11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 5 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb.

28. (818) 766-9100.

CONFESSIONS OF A VINTAGE BLACK QUEEN Billie Hall's autobiographical

survival story ("child molestation, rape, physical abuse, homophobia,

racism, and church abuse"). Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia

Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (818) 766-9100.

GO COUSIN BETTE Drawn from Balzac's La

Comdie humaine, playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation

revolves around a cunning woman's campaign to avenge herself on the

rich relatives who have callously dismissed her as shabby and

unimportant. Sheltered, and fed with scraps of food off her pretty

cousin's plate, poor-relation Bette Fischer (Nike Doukas) grows up

nurturing her hate, eventually evolving into a plain-faced spinster who

is everybody's confidante but nobody's friend. Brilliantly

Machiavellian, Bette's fastidious plot to destroy the family involves

arranging a liaison between her attractive neighbor and abused wife,

Valerie (Jen Dede), and Hector (John Prosky), the lecherous and

profligate husband of her virtuous cousin, Adeline (Emily Chase ).

Bette also acquires wealth (and thus power) by promoting the work of a

young Polish sculptor, Steinbock (Daniel Bess), with whom she's fallen

in love -- unfortunately for her, since he ends up betrothed to

Adeline's daughter, Hortense (Kellie Matteson). Directed by Jeanie

Hackett, the production purposefully underscores the source material's

melodramatic elements -- for example, heightening the narrative's key

points with the melancholy refrains of Chopin. At least one key

performance is overladen with shtick, and some fine-tuning of others is

in order. Still, Doukas is terrific, delivering a consummate

performance that arouses, for her long-suffering deceitful character,

pity, disdain -- and admiration. Alongside the story's bathos is its

salient reminder of what cruelty, indifference and injustice can do to

the human spirit. (Deborah Klugman). Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim

Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru

March 21. (818) 506-5436.

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS Interact Theatre Company presents the

con-man musical comedy based on the 1988 film. NoHo Arts Center, 11136

Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru

March 21. (818) 508-7101.

HEAD OVER HEELS Eric Czuleger's new play follows the journey of six

women. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;

Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (800)

838-3006.

GO HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE "Sometimes to tell a

secret, you first have to teach a lesson," announces L'il Bit (Joanna

Strapp) in the first lines of Paula Vogel's highly acclaimed and richly

awarded play (including the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama). Set in

1960s rural Maryland, the non-linear, episodic plot focuses on L'il

Bit's questionable relationship with her Uncle Peck (David Youse)

during the different stages of her adolescence. Because she is more

educated than her blue-collar family and becomes well endowed at a

young age, L'il Bit always feels out of place, finding solace in Peck's

company, even if his advances aren't always appropriate. In addition to

the two leads, the three members of the Greek chorus (Skip Pipo,

Jennifer Sorenson, and Allie Grant--of Showtime's Weeds in her stage

debut) fill out the cast, playing the other members of this

dysfunctional family as well as secondary characters. Director August

Viverito, who also designed the set, finds the perfect balance between

the emotion and humor in the text, all while choreographing the rapid

scene changes seamlessly. Strapp and Youse are captivating in their pas

de deux, subtly expressing powerful emotions, and the chorus members

convincingly shift personas while enhancing the theatricality of the

piece with their secondary function as transition markers and set

movers. As has been its hallmark, this company tackles the challenge of

mounting theatrical classics in a "closet," and once again succeeds

admirably, especially with such an intimate piece. (Mayank Keshaviah).

Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; thru Feb. 20, www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.

INDULGENCES IN THE LOUISVILLE HAREM John Orlock's story of two

spinster sisters in 1902 Kentucky. Theatre Unlimited, 10943 Camarillo

Ave., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 14.

(818) 238-0501.

IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy about "lust and trust.". Two Roads

Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30

p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (818) 762-2282.

THE JAMB Tuffer (Kerr Seth Lordygan) and Roderick (Brad C. Wilcox)

are gay men who have been friends for 20 years. Though they seem to

love one another, they've never had sex. Now they're on the scary

threshold of age 40, and their conflicts are looming large. Tuffer is

addicted to sex, alcohol, and meth, while Roderick is an angry control

freak with a messiah complex. Tuffer can no longer bear Roderick's

constant disapproval, while Roderick is fed up with having to rescue

Tuffer from his own self-destructive impulses. In hopes of curing

Tuffer's immaturity, Roderick invites him to come along with him on a

visit to his ex-hippie mother (Kenlyn Kanouse) in New Mexico -- but

Tuffer will come only if he can bring his boy-toy Brandon (Garrett

Liggett), with whom, it emerges, he has never had sex. Gay men who only

want to cuddle? Playwright J. Stephen Brantley gives a clever and

quirkily amusing account of his oddball characters, and achieves a

resolution of sorts. But his play doesn't always convince, and one

senses a more complex, unexplored level beneath this tangle of

relationships. Director Susan Lee provides a brisk, straightforward

production, and elicits fine performances from the four actors. (Neal

Weaver). Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley

Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (818) 508-3003.

GO JUST IMAGINE The fun of seeing and hearing Tim

Piper's great John Lennon impersonation in an intimate setting with an

outstanding band, under Greg Piper musical direction, is just

undeniable. The evening, which includes a large portion of the Beatles

catalogue followed by Lennon's solo work, never misses a beat or lick

with Piper's perfectly pitched and accented voice and expert

instrumentation: Don Butler's hot guitar, Morley Bartnoff's keyboard

and Don Poncher's drums. The guys scruffily kowtow to Lennon's lead,

creating the perfect illusion of superstar power. Jonathan Zenz's sound

design achieves a powerful volume without killing our ears in the small

Noho Arts Center space. Lighting by Luke Moyer along with Tim Piper's

video images complete the double fantasy of Lennon before and after

Yoko. The musical portion is so enjoyable, under the overall eye of

director Steve Altman, that we hopefully forget the lame one-man play

that slips between the songs. Perhaps the plan is to pull Lennon off

his lofty saint-like perch, but the result of a plodding timeline

narrative bio leaves Lennon sounding dull and whiney, until the music

returns him to his proper place. (Tom Provenzano). Platinum Live, 11345

Ventura Blvd., Studio City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.. (866)

811-4111.

GO THE KINGS OF THE KILBURN HIGH ROAD What is home

to the emigrant? Is it, in the lowercase sense, merely the place where

one lays ones hat? Or is it a more mythic capital -- an idea of both

origin and aspiration in which the psychic distance between the two

becomes the self-measure of the man? In Dublin playwright Jimmy

Murphy's remorselessly probing elegy, the question is more than

academic. For Murphy's six, middle-aged Irish expatriates who, 25 years

earlier, left County Mayo to seek their fortunes in London's

working-class Kilburn district, home has become a kind of spiritual

sickness that, for one of them, has already proved fatal. And as the

survivors gather in a local pub to mourn his passing, a potent cocktail

of whisky, guilt and recrimination dissolves what's left of their

camaraderie and dreams of youth to reveal only the bitter

disillusionments and regrets of old men. Under Sean Branney's

sure-handed direction, Dan Conroy gives a blistering performance as

Jap, the hard-drinking men's bellicose, hair-triggered leader who, with

his sidekick and flatmate, Git (the fine Matt Foyer), has the least to

show for the lost years while being the most intransigent in his

denial. Maurteen (a simmering Dan Harper) and Shay (John Jabaley)

occupy a middle-ground of resigned acceptance of their meager

circumstances, while Joe (Steve Marvel), as the group's single,

successful exception, serves as the truth-seeking provocateur needling

the friends to a lacerating self-knowledge. (Bill Raden). The Banshee,

3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

Feb. 28, www.theatrebanshee.org. (818) 846-5323.

ON THE AIR Golden Age of Radio murder-mystery musical comedy.

Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 8 p.m.;

thru March 6, www.plays411.com/ontheair. (323) 960-4420.

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.


NEW REVIEW GO A PRAYER FOR MY DAUGHTER

Stage Raw: Theater Folk (Shockingly) Spin into TV and Film!

Photo by Neil Reinhold

A sweltering New York City summer; Son of Sam is still at large. A

massive citywide blackout is around the corner. The year is 1977, and

on the verge of bankruptcy, a city barely keeps it together, not unlike

Detectives Francis Kelly (Kevin Brief) and Jack Delasante (Matthew J.

Williamson), two of NYPD's finest who have nabbed two of its worst:

Jimmy Rosario, a.k.a. Jimmy Rosehips (Matthew Thompson), and Simon

Cohn, a.k.a. Sean de Kahn (Gary Lamb). A drycleaning store gets held

up. Its owner, Mrs. Linowitz, is shot point blank. There's hell to pay,

especially when the boys in blue have no qualms about beating a

confession out of these low-life suspects. Problem is, Jimmy and Simon

are no rookies, and their ability to manipulate the demons that plague

the seemingly hardboiled Kelly and Delasante turns up the sweltering

July heat inside the police station. First performed at the Public

Theater in 1978, this revival of Thomas Babe's gritty interrogation

drama is masterfully orchestrated by director Albert Alarr, whose fluid

blocking and brutally realistic fight choreography make full use of

Sarah Krainin's impeccably authentic set. The entire ensemble shines,

showcasing both the humor and the suffocating pain of a text that

poignantly explores "the light" and "the dark" sides of our natures.

(The show does contain full-frontal nudity.) Crown City Theatre, 11031

Camarillo St., N. Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6. (800)

838-3006. http://www.brownpapertickets.com (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO PROOF What's the link between mathematics and

madness? If you inherit your father's genius, will you also fall heir

to his lunacy? Playwright David Auburn garnered a Pulitzer Prize and a

Tony Award for this play that poses these questions within the

framework of a family drama. The story begins a week after the death of

Robert, an acclaimed mathematician (Brad Blaisdell, appearing in

flashback ); mentally ill in his last years, he'd been cared for by his

mirthless, troubled daughter, Catherine (Teal Sherer). Alone and

grieving on her 25th birthday, Catherine can just barely tolerate the

presence of Hal (Ryan Douglas) a former student of Robert's searching

through his papers for some shred of intellectual value. More annoying

to Catherine is her older sister Claire (Collette Foy), in from New

York and intent on whisking Catherine back with her -- an option

Catherine resents and resists. At the nub of the plot is whether, as

Catherine claims, she wrote the mathematical proof uncovered in a

locked drawer, or whether, as Hal and Claire suspect, Robert devised it

during a period of clarity. For this critic, Auburn's script has always

registered as contrived and lacking subtlety - but this production

blows away this bias by virtue of Sherer's uniquely winning portrayal.

That the character - like the performer -- is wheelchair-bound adds a

layer of vulnerability that brings the play to life for me as it hadn't

before. Make no mistake: Sherer's accomplished performance stands on

its own; it's the material that's been enriched. Kudos also to Foy for

excellent work. (Deborah Klugman). NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia

Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 21.

(323) 960-7863.

QUICKIES TOO! SCENES FROM A BAR Original short plays by seven

writers, one director, and 23 actors. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura

Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru March 12. (818) 990-2324.

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; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, www.Plays411.com/raybradbury. (323)

960-4451.

THE SENSUOUS SENATOR Michael Parker's 1988 bedroom farce. Sierra

Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

(626) 256-3809.

GO SIDHE Otherworldly shadows inhabit playwright

Ann Noble's intense drama about two fugitives from Ireland and their

ravaging effect on others' lives. On the run, smoldering Conall

(Patrick Rieger) and his oddly passive companion, Jacquelyn (Jeanne

Syquia), rent a dingy room above a Chicago bar from its tight-lipped

owner, Louise (Noble). Louise's steadiest customer is her alcoholic

brother-in-law, Vernon (the standout Rob Nagle), who remains

inconsolable over the shooting death of his philandering wife, Amy,

whom he'd worshipped unrequitedly. Bitter and unhappy, both Louise and

Vernon are wont to tear at each other fiercely -- but their problems

pale next to those of Louise's tenants, whose mysterious past hints at

savage violence and unspeakable secrets. Just how terrifically

unimaginable the latter prove to be is something we don't learn until

well into Act 2. Adding a supernaturalistic element to this already

densely miasmic plot is Jacquelyn's proclivity for experiencing strange

apparitions: namely, the "Sidhe," a mythic tribe of pre-Gaelic fairies

with startling powers to affect human -- in this case Jacquelyn's --

behavior. Full of dark turns, Noble's story is so packed with tension

and conflict that at times it's hard to believe only four characters

are taking part. Not every twist is credible, even given the play's

supernatural standards. And sometimes the heavy Irish brogue makes

essential details difficult to grasp. These qualifications

notwithstanding, the production is often riveting, under Darin

Anthony's direction. (Deborah Klugman) A Road Theatre production.

Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20, www.roadtheatre.org.

(866) 811-4111.

SIX DEGREES OF FORNICATION World premiere of David Wally's sex

comedy. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Thurs., 8

p.m.; thru March 4. (866) 811-4111.

NEW REVIEW GO TWELFTH NIGHT Why set Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

in the '80s? The clothes, mostly -- the prankster Sir Toby Belch (Bill

Robertson) belongs in a Hawaiian shirt. It's also the decade where the

men of MTV, be they Boy George or Bret Michaels, slicked on lipgloss,

thus making shipwrecked maiden Viola's (Andrea Gwynnel Morgan) decision

to dress in male drag on trend. Viola, aka Cesario, loves Orsino

(William Mendieta), Orsino loves Olivia (Rebecca Angel), and Olivia

loves Cesario. But Aaron Morgan's likable staging gives equal weight to

drunken good time gang Belch, Maria (Anne Nemer), and Sebastian (Joseph

Baird) as they make mischief with dour Malvolio (Henning Fischer).

Casual and charming with an unexpected jolt of sexual energy when all

the couples are tidily paired, this production best finds its voice

when Feste the Jester (Devin J. Begley) grabs his guitar and croons

"Boys Don't Cry" in a timbre that mates Johnny Cash and Ian Curtis. At

this party, any love child is possible. Chrysalis Stage. Vic Lopez

Auditorium, 12417 E. Philadelphia St., Whittier; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (562) 212-1991. http://chrysalisstage.com

(Amy Nicholson)

URBAN DEATH: ONCE UPON A NIGHTMARE Horror show by Zombie Joe's

Underground. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (818) 202-4120.

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 March 14. (310) 822-8392.

THE COLLECTOR John Fowles' psychological and cunning thriller,

adapted by Mark Healy. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa

Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6. (310) 397-3244.

COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE? Doug Havery's story of two daughters and

their mother's incurable muscular degeneration. Theatre 40 at the

Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (310) 364-0535.

DIGGING UP DAD Cris D'Annunzio's story of his father's mysterious

death. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20. (310) 397-3244.

DUAL CITIZENS Polish actress/puppeteer Anna Skubik and her

Bulgarian-American partner Anthony Nikholchev star in this

comedy-drama's American premiere. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda

Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 21, 7 p.m.; Sun., March 14,

7 p.m.; Sun., March 28, 7 p.m.; thru March 28. (310) 477-2055.

THE EXONERATED Presented by the Long Beach Shakespeare Company. Old

Expo Furniture Warehouse, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat.,

7 p.m.; thru March 6...

I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE Relevant Stage Theatre

Company presents the musical revue, with book and lyrics by Joe

DiPietro, music by Jimmy Roberts. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. Sixth

St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (800)

838-3006.

JACK AND JILL: A ROMANCE Alive Theatrevolution presents Jane

Martin's modern comedy of manners. HELLADA Gallery, 117 Linden Ave.,

Long Beach; Through Feb. 20, 8 p.m., www.alivetheatre.org. (562)

818-7364.

GO JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY Suffused with a

near-Chekhovian mix of the wistful and the melancholy, playwright Henry

Jaglom's world premiere comedy is a delight - an intimate and

thoughtful ensemble piece which is as much a paean to the theater as it

is a meditation on the perils of living entirely by emotion. In a

picturesque but run down country house in upstate New York (realized in

Joel Daavid's beautiful detailed set), a theatrical clan spends what is

probably for them a typical fall weekend of histrionics and melodrama.

These are people who have lived their whole lives for art - which, one

might say, means that dinner is never on time and no one gets up before

noon. Elderly thespian George (Jack Heller) and his beloved wife Vivien

(Diane Louise Salinger) are in the twilight of their careers, but

regret nothing about a life spent on the road performing small plays.

Also staying in their home is their beautiful, unstable daughter

Pandora (Tanna Frederick), who is taking a "rest" from acting after

getting over a recent failed romance. The typically "artsy" family

chaos turns even more tumultuous with the arrival of the family's

estranged eldest daughter Betsy (Julie Davis), who has grown weary of

her eccentric family. When Betsy introduces her lawyer fiance Jimmy

(David Garver) to the family, sparks unexpectedly fly - but the sparks

are between Jimmy and free-spirited Pandora. Some overwritten sequences

teeter on self indulgence, yet the piece is also wise to the follies of

human behavior - and director Gary Imhoff's subtle staging elegantly

juxtaposes the warmth and frustration underscoring the relationships

within so many families. The ensemble work is sensitive, yet comically

charged, with Frederick's calculatedly daffy turn as the

ever-performing Pandora smartly offset by Davis' increasingly angry

Betsy. Heller's leonine elderly actor-dad and Salinger's actress mom,

tender and sad, wonderfully craft the sense of elders who have never

truly grown up, and are amazed by what has happened to their bodies

while their minds remain youthful. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437

Main Street, Santa Monica. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Feb.

28. (310) 392-7327. A Rainbow Theatre Company production. (Paul

Birchall). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru April 25. (310) 399-3666.

LEAVING KIEV West Coast Jewish Theatre presents Theodore Apstein's

play about his family's migration during the Russian Revolution. Pico

Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 506-8024.

LOBBY HERO Kenneth Lonergan's murder mystery about a hapless

security guard. Pacific Stages, 2041 Rosecrans Avenue #170, El Segundo;

Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru March 14.

(310) 868-2631.


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.

LOYALTIES In Tony Pasqualini's drama, Frank (Michael Rothhaar) and

Joy (Robin Becker) have lost a son, Andy, to the war in Iraq. Now they

have become fanatical superpatriots, eager to condemn anyone who

questions the war. Their best friends, Mel (Sarah Brooke) and Andrew

(Pasqualini), also have an adopted son, Michael (Albert Meijer), an

émigré from a Muslim country. Andy and Michael were inseparable friends

throughout their childhood, but their paths diverged. While Andy

enlisted and went to his death in battle, Michael also enlisted but

decided it was a mistake and deserted his post. Though Mel and Andrew

are sympathetic to their son, Frank and Joy are determined to force the

boy to face his fears and accept his duty, even by reporting his

whereabouts to the authorities. This issue becomes a catalyst, leading

to disaster for both families. Pasqualini's play is not really a thesis

drama, but it often sounds like one, treating its characters as

mouthpieces. There are, however, some potent scenes. Though we're

clearly intended to sympathize with Michael, he's too whiny and

self-centered to take seriously. Director David Gautreaux has able

actors but sometimes allows them to succumb to wearisome hysteria and

shouting. (Neal Weaver). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd.,

Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 28,

www.PacificResidentTheatre.com. (310) 822-8392.

MURDER ON THE HIGH C'S Book and Lyrics by Scott Ratner, music and

lyrics by Tim Nelson. Westminster Rose Center Theater, 14140 All

American Way, Westminster; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

Feb. 21...

GO A SONG AT TWILIGHT "I've been in America too

long. It's so lovely to see a steak that doesn't look like a bedroom

slipper! . . . Memory is curiously implacable. It forgets joy, but

rarely forgets humiliation." That's probably not the Noel Coward that

you've ever heard before, but Noel Coward it is. Given that this 1966

bittersweet comedy was one of Coward's final plays, it's startling to

learn that this James Glossman's beautifully mature staging is actually

the show's West Coast premiere (a pruned one act version of the play

was produced here in 1975 in a nationally touring double-bill called

Noel Coward in Two Keys, starring Hume Cronyn.) Is it too late to

nominate Coward for some kind of a "best new writer" award? Some have

theorized that the show's explicit homosexuality-related themes were

Coward's attempt at "coming out" - but even if one doesn't totally

agree with the idea, the show still appears to be years ahead of its

time - and this partially explains why it's so ripe for rediscovery.

Ensconced in his Swiss hotel suite for the season, elderly

author-legend Sir Hugo Latymer (Orson Bean) spits venom at his long

suffering, astonishingly supportive wife Hilde (Alley Mills), who also

serves as his secretary and dogsbody. In fading health, Sir Hugo

realizes that his best days are behind him, but an unexpected visit an

unexpected visit from from his former mistress, Carlotta (Laurie

O-Brien), can still bring out the elderly writer's flamboyant rage.

Retired leading lady actress Carlotta wants permission to publish their

long ago love letters in her upcoming autobiography, but when Hugo

refuses, it turns out the woman has an ace in her sleeve, involving

other love letters to someone even further back in Hugo's past, and

memory. Glossman's elegantly melancholy staging showcases both Coward's

glittering writing and the unexpectedly piquant themes of regret and

bitterness. Bean's crusty, curmudgeonly Sir Hugo may miss the smooth,

veneer of civility we expect, but he adroitly conveys the sense of a

twisted, petulant old tool, who's as dismayed by the loss of his

physical faculties as he is regretful of his past mistakes. O'Brien's

faded vixen is wonderfully snarky, with a mischievous malice suggesting

a hurt creature who is enjoying her spiteful vengeance. Mills'

understanding, but coolly clear-eyed wife, turns out to be unexpectedly

powerful. (Paul Birchall). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.,

L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7,

www.odysseytheatre.com. (310) 477-2055.