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Stage Raw: Theatrification and Broadway 100

Stage Raw: Theatrification and Broadway 100


Stage Raw: Theatrification and Broadway 100

Broadway and the Vaudeville circuit began in Los Angeles 100 years ago, in the downtown Historical Theater District named after New York's Broadway. That district still houses the largest number of historic theaters on one street in the country. A celebration of the 100th birthday of its earliest theaters starts March 26, with a series of multi-cultural events, historical retrospectives, tours and film screenings.


The kickoff is at the Million Dollar Theatre with Theatrefication, the launch-event for the Los Angeles Broadway centennial celebration, BROADWAY 100. Other partners include the Los Angeles Conservancy, REDCAT, and the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation.

 

Theatrefication features two avant-garde performances; a world premiere play with music by David J (Bauhaus and Love And Rockets), and an electropera (opera set to electronic dance music) by Helene Federici. Artist Shepard Fairey will be spinning a DJ set for the exclusive after party.

 

David J's The Chanteuse and the Devil's Muse sheds a chilling new light and a long-awaited reveal of the culprit behind the famous Hollywood cold case of the Black Dahlia with live music (a collaboration between David J and Ebola Music Orchestra's Ego Plum). This performance will also features the world renowned butoh artist, Vangeline.

 

Helene Federici's ET Mostavy is a tale of intergalactic turmoil told by the journalist who is trying to broadcast the opposing viewpoints. With an original electronic dance score by Chris Yanson, this electropera features stunning 3-D animation projections by Michael Allen, and incorporates the talents of the L.A. Breakers, Xtreme Motion, and operatic soloist Rachel Staples. Select pieces from the couture design house, SKINGRAFT, will be used as costumes.


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


Stage Raw: Theatrification and Broadway 100

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for February 25 - March 3, 2011

The Berlin Dig

Photo by J
Stage Raw: Theatrification and Broadway 100

Playwright John Stuercke's attempted exploration of ideas and

ideology about fascism and world politics results in a stupefying mash:

The play takes place in present-day Berlin, where Dieter (Roy Allen),

after the funeral services for his mother, plays host to old friends

Peter (Irwin Moskowitz) and Rolf (Markus Obermeier). It isn't long

before the conversation turns to family ties, to times past and the Nazi

era, sparking a drawn-out, vapid exposition about history, complicity

and German guilt. It's here that Stuercke's pen goes a-wandering, and

doesn't seem to know where to settle, as the discussion turns to

contemporary politics, racism, immigration in Germany and America, oil,

the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the auto industry, Bush and Cheney,

the Kennedy assassination, slavery, communism, even the Armenian

Genocide, all of which transpires in the span of two benevolently short

acts. In Act 2, Stuercke, who also directs, mixes in a little bit of

suspense, when it's revealed that Dieter's father was really a Nazi, and

a relative arrives from America. By this time, it doesn't matter.

Completing the misfire are German accents better suited to Hogan's Heroes

and terrible performances that bury whatever potential the play may

have had. El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El Centro Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through March 6. (800) 838-3006. (Lovell Estell

III)

THE BEST OF LOVE BITES: 10 YEARS TOGETHER . . . AND STILL NO RING

Elephant Theatre Company's annual short play festival, presenting the

company's best one-acts of the past decade. (Two evenings run in rep.).

Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8

p.m.; thru

March 18, ElephantTheatreCompany.com. (877) 369-9112.

THE BEVERLY HILLS PSYCHIATRIST This double bill of one-acts by German

scholar-educator-playwright Cornelius Schnauber makes it clear he is

not a fan of psychiatry. The title play tells us about the Psychiatrist

(Alexander Zale) and his maddening treatment of his long-suffering

Patient (Tony Motzenbacher), a writer fraught with anxieties. The doctor

is absent-minded --he can never remember his patient's name --and tends

to fall asleep during therapy sessions; whenever he's asked a concrete

question, he evades it and ends the session. This goes on for 19

maddeningly repetitious scenes, during which one can only wonder why the

patient doesn't just leave. At the end, the patient finally does

realize his doctor is a fraud, but it's too little and too late. Perhaps

Schnauber was attempting a Pinterian conundrum, but Pinter was never

this dull. The second play, "Highway One," is actually an excerpt from a

longer work, consisting of a monologue by an opera singer (Lene

Pedersen) as she prepares to perform Aida and worries about the

daughter she gave up for adoption years before. Director Louis Fantasia

stages the pieces ably enough, and there is excellent work by the three

actors, but they can't save the plays from themselves. (Neal Weaver).

Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3

p.m.; thru March 6, plays411.com/beverlyhills. (323) 960-4418.

BUT NOT FOR LOVE This long one-act by Matthew Everett, originally

commissioned by the Playshop Theatre in Meadville, Pa., tackles the

hotly contested subject of gay marriage. Eleanor (Krystal Kennedy) and

her brother Ephram (John Croshaw) are getting married in a double

wedding --and both are marrying men, turning the event into a media

circus, with protestors, news vans and cops camped outside the church.

Eleanor and Ephram's husband-to-be, Patrick (Andy Loviska), are

political activists, who want their wedding to be a public statement,

while Ephram and Eleanor's fiance, Roland (Chadbourne Hamblin), resent

having their private lives turned into a political spectacle. Things are

further complicated by Patrick's brother (Nick Sousa), who's a

religious zealot, determined to prevent the wedding by any means

necessary, and the minister, known as The Duchess (Natasha St.

Clair-Johnson), who's a postoperative transsexual. And Duke (Patrick

Tiller), the cop assigned to monitor the demonstrations, is strongly

attracted to the Duchess, unaware of her gender change. The production,

helmed by director Richard Warren Baker, is most successful in its

quieter, more human moments than in its strident political declarations,

when it topples over into melodrama. The events are not always

credible, but there are strong performances from Sousa, St.

Clair-Johnson and Tiller. (Neal Weaver). Renegade Theatre (formerly the

Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6

p.m.; thru March 13, plays411.com/forlove. (323) 960-4443.

BUTTERFLY Michael Antin's musical tale of a shy girl and a

psychologist. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (323) 469-3113.

CABARET IDOL SEASON 2 James Mooney's weekly vocal competition, with

winners voted on by the audience. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122

W. Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 24. (323) 466-9917.

GO CAUGHT In the aftermath of Proposition 8 passing

in November 2008, one of the regrets of those who fought valiantly for

gay marriage and against the proposition was that enough wasn't done to

"normalize" gay couples. And while the events in David L. Ray's

world-premiere play take place in July 2008, Caught furthers

the cause by dramatizing one of those healthy relationships. In it,

Angelenos Kenneth (Corey Brill) and Troy (Will Beinbrink) are on the eve

of their nuptials, a ceremony that will be officiated by their friend

Splenda (Micah McCain), who is ordained via the Internet. This blissful

scene is interrupted by a visit from Kenneth's estranged sister, Darlene

(Deborah Puette), who is very Southern and very Christian, as well as

her daughter, Krystal (Amanda Kaschak). In the interludes between

scenes, we also see Darlene's husband, T.J. (Richard Jenik), preaching

to his conservative congregation in Georgia. Secrets, lies and

surprising revelations fuel the drama. Director Nick DeGruccio deftly

takes Ray's strong and likable characters from page to stage, sparingly

playing up stereotypes for comedy without ever reducing the characters

to them. Adding to the authenticity are Adam Flemming's delightfully

detailed set and Katherine Hampton Noland's colorful couture. Adding to

the emotional investment in the story is a talented cast; standouts

include Puette, for her rich and intense portrayal of Darlene; McCain,

for balancing divalike comedy with deep sincerity; and Kaschak, for

combining fresh-faced innocence and a willfulness to create a very

believable teenager. (Mayank Keshaviah). Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose

Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 3. (800)

595-4849.

GO CRACK WHORE GALORE -- LIVE! Created by Tonya

Corneilisse, Ryan Oliver, Danny Roew, Graham Sibley and director Gates

McFadden, this obscenely funy late night rock music comedy sketch

features Cornelisse and Sibley as a pair of Brit-trash rockers who met

in a London rehab and somehow made it it to Hollywood, or at least to

its sidewalks, in pursuit of Rock 'n' Roll stardom. Their band is called

Crack Whore, and their hourlong cabaret opens with warmup balladeer

Jackie Tohn, on acoustic guitar, crooning with remarkable vocal

dexterity about low self-esteem and love. Into her act crash wafer thin,

obnoxiously loud drummer Abbey (in shades, skirt, and torn fishnets)

and guitarist Danny Galore (in vest and ripped shirt) wielding a

shopping cart filled with mannequins and other crap for their act.

Commenting loudly on how each of Tohn's song is worse than the next,

they "set up" behind her, while she attempts to finish her act. They

smash open a rolldown screen (to be used for a preview of their sex

tape, sold after the show in the lobby). The moment when the livid Tone

leaves the stage captures the moment when '60s folk yielded to punk.

What follows is pornography in song. You'd think Abbey is beyond a

melt-down, but in a moment of despondency, she crawls inside the

shopping cart: "I can't do this anymore, Danny, I just can't." To woo

her back, and out, he croons the love song that he wrote just for her:

"It's all clogged up/The pressure's all built up/I think I might

explode/Now I need to blow my fucking load . . ." Abbey swoons in

adoration, and they're back on track. The power of love, and of song.

They try to tell us their "story," or to sell us their story --which is

the larger point --but can't agree on the details. She's told a wrong

version so many times, he can't quite grasp what's real anymore. There,

but for the grace of God . . . It's not a life-changing event, but the

energy electrifies, the music is surprisingly good, and the performances

are top-tier. (Steven Leigh Morris). Atwater Village Theatre, 3269

Casitas Ave., L.A.; Thurs., Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru March 12,

ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. (323) 644-1929.

GO THE CRADLE WILL ROCK When Orson Welles attempted

to open his production of this Marc Blitzstein musical in 1937, it had

to contend with attempts to shut it down by the U.S. Congress, the

bureaucrats of the Federal Theatre Project and Actors' Equity. The fact

that it was able to open at all was epic. In Blitzstein's work, the

cradle represents not the sleeping baby of the lullaby, but a corrupt

and immoral establishment bent on co-opting every aspect of American

life. In Steeltown, USA, in 1937, local tycoon Mr. Mister (Peter Van

Norden) has corrupted press, church, educators, artists and doctors to

serve his greed and power hunger. He's opposed only by labor organizer

Larry Foreman (Rex Smith, looking and sounding like the quintessential

1930s working-class hero), who leads a stirring call to action. Generic

names like Reverend Salvation (Christopher Carroll) and Dr. Specialist

(Rob Roy Cesar) are standard elements of agit-prop theater, but here the

characters are given enough personal eccentricities to keep them funny

and human. In bringing back many elements of his 1995 production for

this same theater, director Daniel Henning gives us a lively, rousing,

highly stylized version and doesn't patronize us by overinsisting on the

obvious contemporary parallels. There are terrific performances from

musical director David O and a hugely talented cast of 19, with special

kudos to Smith, Gigi Bermingham as a soign Mrs. Mister,

Tiffany C. Adams, Jack Laufer, David Trice, Will Barker, Lowe Taylor,

Matt Wolpe and several others. (Neal Weaver). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773

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

20, TheBlank.com. (323) 661-9827.

GO CYCLOPS: A ROCK OPERA It gets so wearying --all

the satyr plays being done in L.A. ... No, hold on, sorry: Was confusing

satyr plays with autobiographical solo shows. Satyr plays are an

ancient Greek oddity: violent, erotic, comedic concoctions that used to

be performed with three tragedies in annual festivals. Only one still

exists, Cyclops by Euripides, filched from the Homeric legend

of Odysseus being drawn to the shores of Mt. Aetna by the seductive love

call of the Sirens. In Louis Butelli, Chas LiBretto & Robert

Richmond's scintillating rock-opera adaptation, featuring a hedonistic

band (The Satyrs) in goat-skin pantaloons and a bare-chested drummer

(Stephen Edelstein), that love call sounds like so much caterwauling.

Co-directed by the co-adapters, the event recalls Radoslaw Rychik's

adaptation of Bernard-Marie Koltes' In the Solitude of Cotton Fields

last year at REDCAT --a similar kind of rock cantata backed up by the

Polish band Natural Born Chillers. Here, almost everyone's eyes are

rimmed in goth black paint, and half the cast have fingernails to match.

The music ranges from twisted ukulele-accompanied ballads, to Mick

Jagger and punk lampoons, singing the story of how Odysseus (LiBretto)

subjugated (by intoxicating with wine and then blinding) the one-eyed

cycloptic monster, Polyphemus (Jayson Landon Marcus), who has been

holding Dionysus (Casey Brown) captive, along with almost everyone else

in the shadow of the mountain. (Polyphemus is the embittered son of

Poseidon, if you follow such things.) A trio of gorgeous Maenads (Nicole

Flannigan, Madeleine Hamer, Liz Sydah), attired in figure-clenching

silks (costumes by Caiti Hawkins), serve as back-up singers (and more).

One of them mentions that cruelty in life brings a legacy of contempt,

whereas kindness brings a legacy of enduring love. This beautiful idea

doesn't sound particularly Greek, given their rigid codes of honor and

revenge. Whether or not Homer or Euripides gave it lip service, that

Shakespearean notion anchors and gives this ancient comic-book update

its humanity, a moral hall pass for the hedonism it wallows in so

glee-fully, and with such style and skill. (Steven Leigh Morris). Son of

Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Through March 4, 8 p.m.,

sonofsemele.org/shows/ccf2011.html...

GO DADDY Dan Via's Off-Broadway hit, receiving its

L.A. premiere, is set in the context of the impassioned debate over gay

marriage. Handsome gay newspaper columnist Colin (Gerald McCullouch) and

buttoned-down lawyer Stewart (playwright Via) have been best friends

for 20 years. Despite a bit of hanky-panky in their college days, their

friendship has never become a love affair, though they're closer in many

respects than some lovers. When Colin begins an affair with Tee (Ian

Verdun), an eager young man half his age, it's a seismic shock to the

long-standing relationship. Stewart is resentful of the boy's incursion

into their lives, and suspects there's more to Tee than meets the eye.

But when he tries to tell Colin about his doubts and suspicions, Colin

dismisses them as mere jealousy. Though Via's play gets off to a slow

start, things that initially seem cryptic or merely casual prove to be

of crucial importance as it progresses, and the piece builds to a

startling finale. Director Rick Sparks elicits finely nuanced

performances from his three principals, and Adam Flemming provides the

handsome and flexible unit set. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Guild Theatre,

6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru

March 13. (323) 856-4249.

DIRT Writer-director Bruce Gooch's barnyard gothic is set on a farm

where the horses are dead, the cows sold and the dog eaten by coyotes.

Mom's dead, too, and son Zac (Ryan Johnston) is in exile. This leaves

Papa (John D. Johnston) alone to work the land, whether or not it needs

working, because it's a sin to slack. (The Johnstons are real-life

nephew and uncle.) Set designer David Potts has draped the walls in

dense netting and installed a front porch that looms like a gallows.

It's an apt backdrop for when Zac returns to find his muscular pops has

gone dangerously senile. And as the set is stockpiled with a hatchet,

knife, saw and shotgun, I'd take Dad seriously when he threatens that he

won't leave his land without a fight. Though Ryan Johnston is miscast

as the estranged son, his clashes with John D. Johnston spark. Too

often, however, Gooch has them communicate to each other (and us)

through monologues and memories; the script sidesteps as often as it

allows them to butt horns head-on. Andrea Robinson is quite fine as a

local waitress who swings by to check on the fellas, but the stars of

the show are the evocative technics (even if in one climax, the symbolic

thunder drowned out the big speech) and the elder Johnston, whose

presence dominates the play like a frontier Fury. Post-Lennie Smalls,

overall-clad dementia is tricky business --at times, the play seems to

want the subtitle "Of Mice and Dad" -- but veteran actor John D.

Johnston pivots on a nail head from mulish to brutish to yearning,

giving the play an immediacy it needs to unleash. (Amy Nicholson).

Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; thru Feb. 27, roguemachinetheatre.com. (323) 960-5563.

DOUG LOVES MOVIES Free. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Tues., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

EMILY'S SONG Its promo tagline, "An epic musical journey straight to

your heart," would seem to place writer-director Chet Holmes' musical in

the same category as straight-to-video releases with similar epithets.

Considering Holmes' background in screenwriting and his desire to tell

"highly satisfying commercial stories that appeal to the masses," it's

hardly surprising that his foray into musical theater fits the bill. In

it, aspiring musician Charlie Everson (Tom Schmid) gains a daughter and

loses a wife on the same day. Though young Emily (Darcy Rose Byrnes)

grows up motherless, her talent for music brings her close to her

father. Then one fateful evening, Charlie disappears, leaving Emily an

orphan with housekeeper and de facto nanny Rosa (Elena

Campbell-Martinez) as her only family. The next 10 years involve both

older Emily (Lindsey Haun) rising to stardom as a singer, and Charlie

starting over after he is robbed of his memory. Although the premise is

interesting, the problem is that the story is told so cinematically:

There are close to 100 scenes, some of which are four lines long before a

blackout. While this may work on screen, it is disjointed and jarring

on stage. The songs, co-written with Amanda Holmes and Tom Shepard, are

pleasantly melodic, but many are too short to be musically satisfying.

Still, Haun's voice is a highlight of the show, and she and Schmid do

the numbers justice. The two of them, along with the perky and

precocious Byrnes, are very talented performers, but, like the rest of

the cast, they're constrained by the formulaic and at times melodramatic

storytelling. (Mayank Keshaviah). Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323)

960-7788.

FACEBOOK The weekly show formerly known as MySpace., $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Wed., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

FREE $$$ Jonas Oppenheim's faux self-improvement workshop, hosted by

Robin and Randy Petraeus, Power Couple, "authors in the field of

positive thought energy.". Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr.,

L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 20. (310) 281-8337.

FULL BLOWN Andrew Ableson and Jean Spinosa's stowaway tale. Part of

Son of Semele's Company Creation Festival. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly

Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Feb. 26, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 27, 5 p.m.; Through March

11, 8 p.m., sonofsemele.org/shows/ccf2011.html...

GAYS R US Erin Foley and her funny pals, gay and otherwise., $14. The

Improv, 8162 Melrose Ave., L.A.; First Thursday of every month, 8 p.m..

(323) 651-2583.

GROUNDLINGS SINGLE CRUISE 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 23. (323) 934-9700.

INKUBATOR Katselas Theatre Company's monthly performance showcase of

projects in various stages of development. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N.

Vermont Ave., L.A.; Last Friday of every month, 8 p.m.; Last Saturday

of every month, 8 p.m.; Last Sunday of every month, 4 p.m.; thru Nov.

27. (702) KTC-TKTS.

A JEW GROWS IN BROOKLYN Jake Ehrenreich's comedy musical memoir.

American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Dr., Bel-Air; Tues.-Thurs.,

7:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 5 p.m.; thru March 6. (866)

811-4111.

JUMP/CUT Neena Beber's study of friendship and mental illness. Arena

Stage at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian Arena Theater), 1625 N.

Las Palmas Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 26,

jumpcut2011.tix.com. (323) 595-4849.

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

1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.

LA RAZON BLINDADA (THE ARMORED REASON) How does a prisoner survive

without hope? Writer/director Aristides Vargas drew inspiration for this

poignantly horrific black comedy from the experience of his brother, a

political prisoner in Argentina during that country's military

dictatorship. Confined in solitary, prisoners were permitted a brief

respite on Sunday, when they could meet and talk, albeit while remaining

seated and with their hands on the table. That setup provides the

physical framework for this luminously surreal 80-minute one-act in

which two incarcerated men come together to role-play --one calling

himself De La Mancha (Jesus Castanos Chima), the other Panza (Arturo

Diaz de Sandy). The actors remain seated throughout, navigating across

the stage on wooden chairs with wheels. Within these loosely assumed

personae, the pair frolic through a hallucinatory landscape, clowning

their way through speculations about madness, sanity, heroism and human

bonding, and conjuring an elaborate fantasy of regency over an island

that brilliantly mocks the nature of power. In the end, the aim of the

game is survival --not as rational beings, because reality would be too

painful, but as madmen whose lunacy frees them from the shame of

powerlessness. The performances are consummate and the staging, as

eloquent as the text, features a videographed landscape over which their

sunken shadows pass, and Faure's Elegie for Violoncello and Orchestra

to underscore the pathos. (Deborah Klugman). 24th Street Theater, 1117

W. 24th St., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (800) 838-3006.

GO LOVE LETTERS TO WOMEN Flowers irritating your

sinuses? Fondants being stuffed down your throat? Frilly Hallmark

sentiments causing excessive eye-rolling? Marketers work overtime in

early February to sell romance while inadvertently stimulating the "ugh"

reflex. So forgive us if the premise of this world premiere, created by

German Michael Torres and written by Ryan T. Husk, gives us pause.

Inspired by Torres' life growing up with five older sisters, the series

of monologues examines men's relationships with all the women in their

lives. The opening sequence, in which the five actors offer descriptive

phrases such as "women are faith" and "women are queen," is as

sickly-sweet as a box of cheap chocolates. Fortunately, though, director

Hector Rodriguez has cast a group of men talented enough to overcome

that initial saccharine taste by rendering the monologues that follow

with real heart. Mario Martinez delivers his one-liners ("She was

foreign-exchange-student hot") as casually as if they just came to him,

and J. Todd Howell's realizations as a good ol' boy confronting his

prejudices elicited tears in the audience. Michael Ruesga easily is the

star of the show, and the night could use more of Jeff Blumberg's

adorable dorkiness. Even Kevin Vavasseur, who's like a bull in an

airplane bathroom, finds his stride in a piece about the Lakers. Across

the board, the monologues are too long, but over the course of the

evening, even the coldest, crankiest resistance to romantic

sentimentality will have started to melt a little. (Rebecca Haithcoat).

Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.;

thru March 6, Casa0101.org. (323) 263-7684.

GO MACHO LIKE ME In her solo performance, the very

funny Helie Lee explores the issue of male privilege from a South Korean

female perspective. (Though she was born in Seoul, her family emigrated

to the U.S. when she was 4.) She saw firsthand how her brother was

treated as a crown prince, while she and her sister were judged purely

on their marital prospects --provoking her parents' urgent concern with

getting her married. She decided to live as a man for 10 weeks, to

experience the strength and freedom she attributed to men. She strapped

down her bosom, had her hair cut short, acquired a masculine wardrobe

and set out to gain entry to all-male enclaves; the results were not

what she expected. She found that men's lives were no less constricted

than women's, limited by competitive machismo and the fear of being

perceived as gay. The tale is both illuminating and hilarious as she

gains new insights into what it's like to live as a man and as a woman.

By the end of her experiment, she's delighted to return to the familiar

bonds of femininity. With director Sammy Wayne, she has forged a rich,

witty, seamless tale. (Neal Weaver). Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave.,

L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 12. (800) 595-4849.

MAGIC STRINGS Bob Baker's marionette variety revue, featuring puppet

horses on a merry-go-round, an opera diva on roller skates, a "Day at

the Circus," and an all-American grand finale. Bob Baker Marionette

Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri.,

10:30 a.m.. (213) 250-9995.

GO ME, AS A PENGUIN Yorkshire playwright Tom Wells'

comedy, in its U.S. premiere, is a throwback to British "Kitchen Sink"

dramas of the 1950s. This one might be dubbed a "Toilet Bowl" comedy. "I

think you should see this," says visiting Stitch (Brendan Hunt),

peeking out from the bathroom door belonging to his his very pregnant

sister, Liz ( Mina Badie). "Whatever you've done, just keep flushing,"

she fires back from her threadbare couch. The play unfolds from her

grubby living room. With his penchant for the comfort of knitting,

idiosyncratic and perhaps mentally touched Stitch is visiting his sister

in Hull from even more rural Withernsea, in order to check out Hull's

gay scene. The tenderness between the misfit, almost mortally lonely

Stitch and his very pregnant sister has much in common with Shelagh

Delaney's 1958 similarly tender play, A Taste of Honey. Themes

of loyalty, love, and desperate longing -intertwined with

sado-masochistic behaviors --just keep trickling across the divide of

centuries, and in much the same gritty, earthy theatrical style depicted

in filthy furniture (set by John Pleshette) that represents poverty,

and not just the poverty of financial resources. Pleshette directs a

fine production that gets to the heart of the matter, even if some of

the North Country dialects drift a wee bit southwest into, say, Alabama.

Hunt serves up a dynamic performance as Stitch, laced with twitches and

subtle mannerisms. Bradie's Liz has a similar richness and

authenticity. James Donovan plays Liz's partner, and the father of her

child, Mark, with a blend of the requisite gruffness required by a guy

trying to scrape out a living in Hull, masking a soft-heartedness that

would get him cast out to sea, were more people to know about it. Stitch

becomes obsessed with a callow aquarium attendant named Dave, played by

Johnny Giacalone with an arrogant brutishness that's a pleasingly

heart-hearted antidote to the eccentric humanity that shows up in the

room. In her pregnancy, Liz has become almost addicted to a popular

British snack called Battenberg cake. "Ah," remarks Stitch drolly,

watching her opens the wrapper and melt into paroxysms of delight at the

first bite: "Sponge. Jam. Marzipan. All the major food groups." What

keep audiences watching new plays may not be new forms at all, but

merely the references that provide the necessary inclusion. The Lost

Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4

p.m.; through March 6 (323) 960-7721. (Steven Leigh Morris). Lost

Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru

March 6, plays411.com/me. (323) 960-7721.

MLLE. GOD Playwright Nicholas Kazan's uninspired spin on Frank

Wedekind's "Lulu" plays comes as a cautionary reminder of just how

difficult it is to capture libido on a stage. What some might think is

the essence of the erotic mystique certainly will seem for others to be

little more than an embarrassingly self-revealing mistake. That the

latter proves to be the case in director Scott Paulin's pallid

production is not for want of trying. Annika Marks' Lulu contains more

provocative posturing per minute than one generally encounters at the

average "gentlemen's club." Unfortunately for a play attempting to

explore issues of feminine sexual power and the hegemony of patriarchal

gender constructs, Marks' miscalculated stridency conjures all the eros

of a cold shower. To be fair, even the great Louise Brooks --whose

performance in Georg Pabst's classic 1929 screen adaptation Pandora's Box

continues to reign as the definitive Lulu --would have been lost in the

sophomoric self-parody of a text that calls for a gentleman admirer

(Tasso Feldman, double-cast with Gary Patent) to involuntarily blurt out

an ecstatic "Yes!" every time Lulu bends over. Keith Szarabajka emerges

with his dignity fully intact in a fine turn as the Lulu-obsessed

painter Melville (also played by Robert Trebor). Richard Hoover's

versatile set and lighting designs and Jason Thompson's sci-fi-tinged

video projections lend the proceedings a stylish gloss. Late in the

play, a character refuses to describe Lulu's sexual appeal, adding that

it is "a certain quality which I wouldn't want to ruin by naming it."

Would that Kazan had taken his own advice. Performs with alternating

casts. (Bill Raden). Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 27,

ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. (323) 644-1929.

MOTHER Mary-Beth Manning's one-woman show about a complex

mother/daughter relationship. Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru March 16, plays411.com/mother. (323)

960-5774.

GO MR. KOLPERT What to do when you're settled,

successful and sociopathic? For bored couple Sarah (Lauren Olipra) and

Ralf (Tommy French), the answer is, terrorize Sarah's tee-totaling

co-worker Edith (Kimberly Dilts) and her meathead husband Bastian (J.T.

Arbogast) at a dinner party for four. Sarah and Ralf claim that they've

killed Mr. Kolpert from Accounts and locked him in the trunk. The

enraged Bastian makes good on his claim to kill them all, including his

missus, who may or may not be joking about having an affair with Mr.

Kolpert. Everyone is lying --or "kidding" --in David Gieselmann's comedy

of lethally bad manners, and it's cruel fun once the audience is clued

in to its odd, bright artificiality. Between the blood and fake vomit

are digressions into chaos theory, which hint that there's a method in

Gieselmann's madness. What sticks is his caricature of yuppies as being

so dulled by civility and chardonnay that the only wake-up is a sharp

knife. Director Mike Monroe could scale back Bastian's out-of-the box

rage, but otherwise the cast is terrific, with Arbogast's oily charm,

Olipra's feline callowness and Dilts' nuanced comedic turn as the

perfect wife with her own axe to grind. (Amy Nicholson). Fake Gallery,

4319 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Wed., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 9. (323)

644-4946.

NO. SAINTS LANE The setting for Eric Czuleger's dark comedy is a

remote cabin in Scagway, Alaska, where, amidst the battering of a winter

storm, Mer (Meredith Schmidt) and her slow-witted daughter, Dizzy

(Kirsten Kulken), are again on the run from Mer's violent spouse, Hunter

(Adam Navarro), who has just completed his Special Forces duty. This

time, Mer has decided to end the abuse permanently by asking her current

lover, Jay (Joe Calarco), to kill her husband. Initially, things seem

to go as planned, but the celebration is short-lived when the batterer

hobbles in bruised and bloodied, with the intention of reclaiming his

family. Up until then, the play had some legs, albeit wobbly ones, but

most of Act 2 turns in to muddled attempt to explore the volatile

dynamics of love, attraction and repulsion, and even the effects of

torture on the human psyche --little of which is articulated or emerges

from the incoherent structure. The contrived finale is just puzzling.

Cast performances are barely adequate, with Calarco (who does fine job

with the sound design), being the only exception. Steve Julian directs.

(Lovell Estell III). Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd.,

L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 6,

coeurage.org/tickets/buy. (323) 882-8043.

NUNSENSATIONS! Nuns go to Las Vegas in Dan Goggin's comedy. Lyric

Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., March 6, 7

p.m.; Sun., March 13, 7 p.m.; thru March 13. (626) 695-8283.

GO 100 DAYS The title of Weiko Lin's two-character

play is derived from an old Taiwanese Buddhist tradition, which dictates

that when the parent of an unmarried child passes away, the child must

find a spouse within 100 days in order for the spirit of the deceased to

transition peacefully. But matrimony is the last thing on the mind of

Will (Eric Martig), who revels in his debauched, hand-to-mouth existence

as a traveling comedian on the college circuit, where there is a steady

supply of booze and female company. But for Miki (Joy Howard) --Will's

love of 15 years removed -- life is nothing but painful drudgery, made

all the more so by old emotional wounds, an unhappy marriage,

middle-class monotony and her fear of having children. When Will attends

a funeral service for his mother, he encounters a family friend who

sets in motion a chain of events that eventually brings Miki and Will

together again, allowing another chapter of their relationship to play

out. Notwithstanding a somewhat tedious Act 2 involving an overcooked

night of drinking and reminiscing, there is much that is engaging. Lin's

script bristles with energy and humor, and he invests these characters

with a simple, captivating humanity. The cast delivers high-quality

performances, under Brett Erickson's direction. (Lovell Estell III).

Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St., No. 105, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; thru March 20, LOFTensemble.com. (213) 680-0392.

PIPPIN DOMA Theatre Company's dark take on the Stephen Schwartz

musical. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 13, plays411.com/pippin. (323) 960-5773.

PLAY DATES Sam Wolfson's offbeat love story. Theatre Asylum, 6320

Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April

17. (323) 960-7784.

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless

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

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

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

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

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

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

PUZZLER In writer-director Padraic Duffy's new play, Niklas Keller

(Mark Bramhall) now in his 70s, sits at a desk somewhere in Germany,

rifling through documents shredded by the East German secret police

years ago. His pin-in-a-haystack search is for a fragment of a

conversation, for a woman, his wife, for a fleeting marriage that

dissolved before his eyes in a world where everybody was being watched

and nothing was certain. His Quixotic search is for certainty, for an

understanding of why said wife disappeared, after that conversation in

which she promised somebody, some man in a trenchcoat, that she would

see him later in that day. It was clandestine rendezvous in which both

man and woman were each incognito (except to each other). After she met

with that man, Keller never saw his wife again. Keller pieces together

that conversation from shreds of tiny slips of paper found in sacks of

shredded documents that the contemporary government is analyzing in

order to understand the now defunct East German mentality. That

conversation shows up again on film, actually a live re-enactment

performed by Jessica Sherman and Jacob Sidney. Her neck is wrapped in a

purple scarf, and the kind of white handbag that was de rigueur for East

German spies. He's in a trenchcoat. It's all very noir. And so

Duffy's romantic thriller follows a kind of Agatha Christie logic, as

revealed in a smokey Fritz Lang flick where nobody is quite who they

claim to be. The flashbacks provide the keenest sense of film noir

that Duffy's play winks at. There's an almost choreographic panache to

the swirl with which Sherman and Sidney move. Less so in the present

tense, where the acting style more cinema verite than noir.

The consequence is a kind of emotional investment in a sentimental love

story, pinched at times by the sly visual jokes on a film style that

Duffy clearly adores. His affection for the form, and for its

characters, is so much more satisfying than a parody. (Steven Leigh

Morris). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (310) 281-8337.

GO ROOM SERVICE Twenty-two jackals --I mean, actors

--have run up a $1,200 bill at a posh hotel in 1930s Manhattan, and

their producer, Gordon (Derek Manson), is desperate to skip out on the

tab. Fat chance with manager (Phillip William Brock) and corporate heavy

(Charles Dennis) blocking their escape. Since Gordon, the director (Joe

Liss), the playwright (Dustin Eastman) and the rabble are on the 19th

floor, they can't jump. Better options are playing sick, suffering a

hunger strike, faking suicide and dabbling in bank fraud. John Murray

and Allen Boretz's madcap comedy ran for 14 months on Broadway in 1937,

and if the quips and the wise guys (especially Daniel Escobar's cheery

lug) smack of a Marx Brothers movie, that's because it was one in 1938.

Except for Eastman's guileless writer, these starving artists aren't

suffering for the sake of art; their play seems secondary to saving

their own skins. When real talent, a Russian waiter who studied Chekhov

(Elya Baskin, excellent), auditions into their hotel room, his

breathtaking monologue goes ignored. This three-act contraption gets

going in Act 2 after co-directors Bjorn Johnson and Ron Orbach ease the

cast into the comedy's chirpy rhythm. It's a slender pleasure, despite

the directors' argument that it makes us reflect on our current economic

crisis. Better just to enjoy the physical comedy that makes full use of

every corner of Victoria Proffit's suite set; the ensemble leaps over

furniture and gobbles down smuggled food like wild, wise-cracking

animals. (Amy Nicholson). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd.,

L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 12, openfist.org.

(323) 882-6912.

GO SHADOW ANTHROPOLOGY: A POST-9/11 COMEDY Ten years

after 9/11, the plight of rural Afghans caught in the crossfire between

U.S. forces and the Taliban remains dire. Playwright-director Rick

Mitchell lays bare the cruel urgency of their circumstances in this

unpolished but potentially compelling production. Utilizing music

(composer Max Kinberg) and puppetry (shadow artist Maria Bodmann), and

depicted with the broad strokes of Brechtian-style theatrics, it begins

with the recruitment by a Blackwater-type firm of a post-grad in

anthropology named Fe (Lymari Nadal). A left-leaning Puerto Rico native,

Fe has the job of interviewing Afghans for the U.S.'s human terrain

project. Touted as a way to win hearts and minds, the project is a

devious attempt to root out insurgents through entrapment. Overseeing

the program is a well-paid defense operative named Evan (David Lee

Garver), an unprincipled superpatriot whose sprawling ego is pumped up

by his coke-and-heroin habit and his steady intake of Viagra. A

practiced slimeball, Evan nonetheless proves no match for the region's

chief warlord, Gulab (Andrew Qamar Johnson), a brazen villain with no

compunction about engineering the murder of a hapless farmer (Ray

Haratian), whose 21-year-old daughter (Claudia Vazquez) he has procured

in marriage for his septuagenarian uncle (Eduardo R. Terry). Despite

roughness around the edges on opening night, the performances are on

track, especially Garver's and Johnson's, whose scenes together zone in

on the ubiquitous venality on both sides. Illustrating Afghan women's

nightmares is another grotesquely funny segment in which Vazquez's

martyred bride undertakes, for her family's survival, to fornicate with

her moribund but still lecherous spouse. Part of Son of Semele's Company

Creation Festival. (Deborah Klugman). Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly

Blvd., L.A.; Through Feb. 25, 8 p.m.,

sonofsemele.org/shows/ccf2011.html...

NEW REVIEW GO THE SONNETEER

Stage Raw: Theatrification and Broadway 100

Photo by Katie Pomerantz

Nick Salamone's play examines the ways in which homophobia, guilt,

self-delusion and hypocrisy cause the gradual disintegration of the

Cardamones, a first-generation Italian-American family. Louie Cordero

(Paul Haitkin), his younger brother, Michael (Ray Oriel), and their

friend Joey (Ed Martin) go off to serve in World War II. Michael and

Joey, serving in France, secretly become lovers. After the war, Louie

marries his sweetheart, Livvy (Sandra Purpuro), but he also discovers

the relationship between Michael and Joey, and his virulent homophobia

is aroused. Pressured by salty, bossy older sister Vita (Cynthia

Gravinese), who wants to save him for middle-class respectability,

Michael marries a sweetly naïve hospital nurse, Ella (Victoria Hoffman),

whom he'd like to love, but doesn't. Meanwhile, Livvy, desolate over

Louie's death, writes sonnets to relieve her pain. Director Jon Lawrence

Rivera sensitively explores the rich characters and understated

subtleties of Salamone's play, with fine assistance from his able and

faithful cast. Haitkin, in particular, scores as both homophobic Louie

and his scholarly pro-gay son. Davidson/Valentini Theatre, L.A. Gay

& Lesbian Center's Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden

Place, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., through March 13. (323)

860-7300, lagaycenter.org/boxoffice. (Neal Weaver)

GO THE SUNSET LIMITED John Perrin Flynn's top-notch

staging of Cormac McCarthy's 1996 two-character play shows the author is

a gifted dramatist as well as a superb novelist. A life-and-death

struggle emerges in the dingy apartment of an ex-con named Black (Tucker

Smallwood), who has just rescued White (Ron Bottitta) from a suicide

leap off a subway platform. That their names are racial signifiers is

just one of the dynamics McCarthy uses to mine the ironies in this

simple scenario. Black is poor, uneducated and a committed man of faith,

an inner-city Good Samaritan whose redemption came in prison and who

unwaveringly believes in the value of life and God's grace. White is a

hyper-rationalist, a successful university professor and defiant atheist

who is weighted down with crushing despair and hopelessness. It's a

high-stakes intervention where both men state their cases with unbridled

passion and eloquence engendering a back-and-forth shift of empathies,

and one never gets the sense of an immutable moral center or of merely

listening to lectures. McCarthy, who is noted for his sparse dialogue

and powerful imagery, exhibits an uncanny ear for ghetto argot, but just

as nimbly utilizes the idiom of the academic. When, at the end, White

erupts and expresses a weltanschauung of the darkest hue, one is

reminded of Nietzsche's remark about staring into the abyss.

Complementing Flynn's fine direction are the equally superb

performances. (Lovell Estell III). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd.,

L.A.; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323)

422-6361.

UNSCREENED New short plays by Emily Halpern, Leslye Headland, Beth

Schacter, and Susanna Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz., (310) 424-5085. Zephyr

Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru March 7. (323)

852-9111.

VIOLATORS WILL BE BIOLATED Casey Smith's solo mime show. Atwater

Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru

March 19, circlextheatre.org. (323) 644-1929.

THE VIOLET HOUR Richard Greenberg's tale of a publisher besieged by

two authors. Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 13, plays411.com/violethour. (323)

960-1054.

WOMEN IN SHORTS World premiere themed evening of theater, starring

Joanna Miles and Louise Davis. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner

St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 20,

brownpapertickets.com/event/143986. (800) 838-3006.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

ALMOST, MAINE John Cariani's love story set in a snowy, remote town

in Maine. The Whole Theatre, 5918 Van Nuys Blvd. (behind the Young

Actors Space), Van Nuys; Sat.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (818)

785-7979.

BROTHERS GRIMM'S SHUDDER Zombie Joe's Underground's adaptation of the

Grimm fairy tale "The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What

Fear Was.". ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;

Fri., 11 p.m.; thru March 25. (818) 202-4120.

GO CAMINO REAL Told that the rarely performed play

was by one of the great 20th-century playwrights, you'd guess the author

was Tom Stoppard before Tennessee Williams. The 40-character limbo-land

puzzler mashes up Don Quixote (Lenny Von Dohlen), Casanova (Tim

Cummings), Lord Byron (Michael Aurelio) and the Hunchback of Notre

Dame's gypsy femme fatale Esmeralda (Kalean Ung) in the town of Camino

Real (pronounced KA-mino REE-al, a la gringo, so as to distinguish it from the country of CaMIno ReAL

just next door). Inside the gates, the hamlet is divided further still

between the Haves, who sip brandy with Gutman (Brian Tichnell) at his

sumptuous hotel, and the Have-Nots, who lay their heads at the fleabag

Ritz Men Only, or worse. Between them, there are enough liars and whores

that a chipper innocent like Kilroy (the fantastic Mike Goodrich), a

former boxing champ with a heart as big as a baby, is humbled within 10

minutes of hitting town. But this isn't about his escape. It's about his

destruction and whether he --and the rest of the captives --will be

able to face their fate when the murderous cleaners (Frank Raducz Jr.

and Murphy Martin) come to sweep them away. The only people not trying

to leave town are the people too damaged to try, a motley crew of

pawnbrokers, pickpockets and a taco salesman whom director Jessica

Kubzansky keeps in motion, each slipping out in time to pop up in

another role. Camino Real is most famous for bombing on

Broadway in 1953 and temporarily tarnishing the careers of Williams and

director Elia Kazan. (There's even a play about the flop, The Really Big Once,

which opened last fall in New York.) Williams' episodic structure lacks

momentum, particularly in the second act during a long scene between

Kilroy and Esmeralda (who needs more heat). But the decades have given

us a better perspective on the questions Williams, then at the anxious

peak of his stage career, was asking himself: Can you still love when

you're old and cynical? Can art survive amid crass capitalism? And is

being a former talent a source of pride or shame? Kubzansky's ensemble

is outstanding, even wringing a knowing chuckle from the faux-naif line,

"Why does disappointment make people unkind?" With all technical

contributions including Silvanne E.B. Park's costumes hitting high

marks, Camino Real is a curiosity that you're not likely to see

again -- let alone this well. (Amy Nicholson). Boston Court, 70 N.

Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13,

bostoncourt.com. (626) 683-6883.

THE CAPULETS AND THE MONTAGUES The star-crossed lovers get an

astrological realignment in this comedy by Shakespeare's Spanish

contemporary, Lope de Vega. Seeming to send up Romeo and Juliet,

Lope's play is, in fact, not a skewering of the Bard's tragedy but a

farcical rendering of the same source material, Matteo Bandello's

novella Giulietta e Romeo. Dakin Matthews' thoughtful English

translation centers squarely on the frivolity of lovesickness, the

foolhardiness of relentless family loyalty and the potential for comedy

amidst the murkiness of communication breakdown. For every fatal turn

Shakespeare's text takes, Lope's version veers into the gleefully

ridiculous: Juliet (Nicol Zanzarella-Giacalone) comes on to Romeo (Benny

Wills) like a tigress in heat at the masquerade ball, Capulet (John

Achorn) plans to marry his niece (Kellie Matteson) to ensure an heir

when Juliet is pronounced dead, Romeo stumbles around like a frightened

man-child in Juliet's dark tomb. Though there's promise of great fun in

seeing this underperformed play in a careful translation that pays close

attention to the lighthearted impact of rhyming verse, the production

is in desperate need of directorial attention. In the hands of Anne

McNaughton, the potential for out-and-out comedic outrage and unabashed

farcical tomfoolery is lost. Instead, we get a dramatically lukewarm

retelling of a well-known story, a tone-deaf production begging to be so

much more than a famous tragedy with a jocular spin. The able lead

actors suffer under the tonal ambiguities. As nurse Celia, Etta Devine

carries many of the comic scenes with her excellent timing and

sure-handed delivery. The biggest laughs come when Celia and servant

Marin (Bruce Green) revel in low comedy, mocking the wooing process as

the lead lovers wax poetic. Dean Cameron's costumes are flawless. (Amy

Lyons). New Place Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove St., North Hollywood; Sun.,

2 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, Andak.org.

(866) 811-4111.

FIREHOUSE Unlike police officers, who are so often feared or

mistrusted, firefighters almost always engage the appreciation and

respect of the people they serve. Playwright Pedro Antonio Garcia's

message-minded melodrama jump-starts around the community's perceived

betrayal of that covenant, and the pressure brought to bear upon a

firefighter named Perry (Kamar de los Reyes) to make a bogus choice

between loyalty to his unit and loyalty to his Puerto Rican ethnic

group. A 20-year department vet, Perry is on the cusp of retirement when

a crisis erupts at the South Bronx firehouse after a colleague named

Boyle (Gerald Downey) rescues another firefighter from a burning

building but leaves behind a 12-year-old child. Boyle steadfastly

maintains he didn't see the girl for the smoke, but his credibility is

open to question --in no small part because of his personal history as a

former cop who was tried and acquitted for shooting an unarmed

civilian. Whereas the community, represented here by Perry's fiancee,

Aida (Jossara Jinaro), a criminal defense attorney, is up in arms, most

of Boyle's buddies give him the benefit of the doubt and pressure Perry

to do the same. Garcia gleaned aspects of his story from real-life

headlines in this effort to offer up an intrepid examination of how our

native prejudices cloud our judgment. Too often, however, the characters

seem mere profanity-riddled mouthpieces for one side or another's point

of view, a problem exacerbated by Bryan Rasmussen's overheated

direction. Most discrepant is Jinaro's counselor-at-law, unconvincing as

a perspicacious professional not only by virtue of her mini-skirted and

otherwise revealing attire but in her strident insistence that Perry

take her side for personal reasons rather than principled ones. (Deborah

Klugman). Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri., 8

p.m.; thru April 29, theatermania.com. (323) 822-7898.

IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual

fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a

contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot

is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play

resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one

indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed.

(Steven Leigh Morris). Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio

City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (818) 762-2272.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Man-eating-plant musical, book and lyrics by

Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken. Center Stage Theatre, 8463 Sierra

Ave., Fontana; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March

6. (909) 429-7469.

THE MAIDEN'S PRAYER Nicky Silver's look at the randomness of love.

Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sun., 8

p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (800) 681-5150.

MELODRAMA Adam Neubauer's absurd comedy about a man's quest to find

his father's murderer. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 12. (818) 202-4120.

A MIXED TAPE Eric Edwards' retrospective of a lonely guy's love life.

Playhouse West Repertory Theater, 10634 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 27, amixedtape.com. (818) 332-3101.

NERVE Adam Szymkowicz's dark comedy set on a couple's first date.

Chance Theatre, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (714) 777-3033.

NEW EYES Yafit Josephson gives an accomplished performance in her

solo show about a Jewish actress facing down Hollywood's cultural

stereotypes. It's marred only by a poorly designed slideshow. Josephson

slips easily into various personae, combining characters with

caricatures to good comedic effect. The opening has her switching from a

formidable military officer to her nervous young self on her first day

of compulsory military training in the Israeli army. Highlights include a

hilarious mime sequence where she uncomprehendingly attempts yoga and

another scene where she gives a goofy impression of a macho guy in an

Israeli nightclub. Josephson's tall, slender build, piercing eyes and

chiseled face lend her a commanding presence, but it's her prominent

proboscis that relegates her to the usual gamut of villainous roles,

from terrorist to evil witch --"And no, they didn't have to use a fake

nose," she jokes. Her adult journey takes her from the New World back to

Israel, where she touches base with her culture, returning to Hollywood

with newfound strength of character. Beneath the comedy lies a serious

undercurrent stemming from the ongoing war in the Middle East: Land

equals identity. (Pauline Adamek). Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura

Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 12.

(323) 960-7712.

OEDIPUS THE TYRANT The Porters of Hellsgate present a new translation

of Sophocles' classic, translated by Jamey Hecht. Sherry Theatre, 11052

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

March 13, brownpapertickets.com/event/149704. (818) 325-2055.

NEW REVIEW THE REVENANTS Not only do the

protagonists in this zombie play break the age-old cautionary rule (in

zombie-prone regions) of avoiding the basement at all costs, but they

manage to hunker down below ground with two members of the rapidly

multiplying undead population. Thus, a long and tediously unfolding

chain of events is set in motion by characters entirely lacking sound

decision-making skills. All of this stupidity would be fine were it a

remotely intelligent commentary on human folly, but nothing in Scott T.

Barsotti's text resembles satire or keen irony. Instead, we witness the

agonizingly uninteresting plight of Gary (Carl Bradley Anderson) and

Karen (Anne Westcott), a pair of old friends whose respective spouses,

Molly (Lara Fisher) and Joseph (Rafael Zubizarreta Jr.), have turned

zombie. While the uninfected couple make feeble attempts to devise a

plan of action, they chain Molly and Joseph to the wall. For the play's

duration, Molly and Joseph halfheartedly strain against their bindings

while Gary and Karen talk about old times, argue over the extent to

which their spouses are lost and question their marriages. There isn't a

nail-biting moment in sight here; the constant presence of the zombies

creates a tolerance factor that renders them about as threatening as a

pair of uncouth houseguests unaware of the late hour. Because Gary and

Karen are entirely unremarkable characters, the stakes are further

purged. If the goal is to make us root for the zombies (think George

Romero's smirk at rabid consumerism in the shopping-mall setting of Dawn

of the Dead), then the failure is one of narrative scope: Focusing on

four characters in a static setting is no way to build an audience of

gleeful zombie sympathizers. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006

Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., through March 19. thevisceralcompany.com. (Amy Lyons)

REWIND SkyPilot Theatre Company's late-night series of one-acts, on

everything from "how to get fired from a job" to "how to survive a

zombie attack.". Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank;

Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m.; thru March 12, skypilottheatre.com. (800) 838-3006.

SCHMUTZIGEN DEUTSCHE KABARETT This latest, late-night creation from

sardonic, surrealist director-choreographer Amanda Marquardt is so

straightforward and simple in its concept and execution that it's a

wonder no one thought of it before. Take the Kander & Ebb musical

classic Cabaret, jettison the treacly and preachy Joe Masteroff book,

and stage the results as a brisk and breezy, melodrama-free evening of

simulated Weimar nightclub entertainment. The schmutzigen is

provided by the indecently flamboyant Luke Wright, who, from opener

"Willkommen" through his solo on "I Don't Care Much" to the show's

finale, vamps his way through an endless string of double entendres to

stake a creditable claim to the role of MC that made Broadway stars of

Joel Grey and Alan Cumming. Marquardt herself appears as Sally Bowles

(replete with Liza-like false eyelashes), displaying an appealing set of

pipes on such signature numbers as "Don't Tell Mama," "Cabaret" and

"Mein Herr." Wright returns (wearing little more than an uncredited but

campy pair of tuxedo briefs) with chorines Skye Noel (also credited as

dance captain and co-choreographer) and Eva Ganelis, as the trio strut

their comic stuff in "Two Ladies." But, you might ask, if there's no

book, what about the musical's politics --and what does that have to do

with us? Relax. Marquardt gets in her licks, and puts the Deutsche

Kabarett, political-satire bite back into Cabaret with "High

Chancellor," a hilarious, show-stealing strip number, with Jonica

Patella in Hitler drag, bumping, grinding and goose-stepping to the Nazi

march "Erika." (Bill Raden). ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd.,

North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru April 22. (818)

202-4120.

STEALING BUFFALO Profanity, perversion and a pig iron do not a Mamet

play make. While the "master" is known for his liberal use of the

f-word, the c-word and other unmentionables, his machine-gun dialogue

generally contains an undercurrent of danger, social commentary and

revelation of character. Many Mamet imitators fail to grasp this

subtext, and, like Vern Urich and Craig Ricci Shaynak, create pieces

that superficially resemble Mamet's patterns but lack his depth. In this

take on American Buffalo, Jed (Urich) enters like Teach from the original, uttering a string of f-bombs followed by the word Mamet instead of Ruthie.

He has again failed to get the rights to put on his favorite play in

Los Angeles. Jed's rotund friend Stu (Shaynak), also an actor, is having

troubles of his own but with women. After a lengthy lecture by Jed on

"bangin' broads" (a phrase that becomes noisome from repetition), the

two concoct a scheme to "steal" Mamet's work. A strange attempt to fuse

Mamet-speak and Swingers, this unending string of one-liners

quickly ventures into tedium, with its numerous tangents, such as a

listing of all the celebrities whose sign is Sagittarius, replacing an

actual story. The pizza box-laden set (presumably an homage to Mamet's

junk shop) lacks any sense of design, and the literal projections only

elongate the tangential riffs on pop culture, which grind the action to a

halt. While the inspiration for the piece is Urich's own experience,

the result lacks the stakes and tension to turn documentary into drama.

(Mayank Keshaviah). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank

Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 6,

thegrouprep.com. (818) 700-4878.

TOPDOG/UNDERDOG Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize winner about two

African-American brothers. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave.,

South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (866) 811-4111.

THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL Horton Foote's nostalgia story. Lonny Chapman

Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 6. (818) 700-4878.

WEIRD ON TOP Improvisational comedy by Danielle Cintron, Tiffany

Cole, Mason Hallberg, Kerr Seth Lordygan, Sarah McCann and Alex Sanborn.

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

Tues., March 1, 8 p.m.; Thurs., April 21, 8 p.m.; Thurs., May 12, 8

p.m.; Thurs., June 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Aug. 18, 8

p.m.. (818) 508-3003.

WOUNDED Amy Tofte's historical narrative inspired by the Wounded Knee

massacre. CalArts, Walt Disney Modular Theater (MOD), 24700 McBean

Parkway, Valencia; Through Feb. 26, 8 p.m.,

http://calarts.edu/calendar...

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

GO ADDING MACHINE: A MUSICAL In Joshua Schmidt and

Jason Loewith's adaptation of Elmer Rice's 1923 satire of accountants

slaving for The Man in cubicles, a shlub named Zero (Clifford Morts, in a

marvelously cantakerous turn reminiscent of the late Carroll O'Connor)

eagerly awaits some reward on the 25th anniversary of his hiring.

Instead, he's fired, having been replaced by an adding machine. Rice's

play was written before the days of pensions and labor unions and the

kinds of post War labor protections that, incidentally, accompanied the

most robust economic boom this country has every experienced. It was

also written five years before the Great Depression. It now arrives as

almost all those protections have been swept away, and our economy

teeters precariously once more - cursed by economic conditions and

employment practices that in so many ways, resemble those of 1923. Yet

neither the play nor this musical adaptation is primarily about

economics, but rather about metaphysics, which would explain director

Ron Sossi's fascination with it. The operatic, often dissonant and

percussive music has almost no melody, which is exactly right in a story

that drives a spike through the heart of sentimentality and romance.

Zero's wife is a hideous, jealous, nagging monstrosity - that would be

the character, not Kelly Lester's spirited interpretation that contains

echos of Angela Lansbury. The colleague who loved Zero unrequitedly (the

marvelous Christine Horn) joins him in the after-life. For the way God

really works, and the way dead souls are recycled, you have to see the

show. Sossi directs a strong production, though with minimal silk drops

representing the afterlife, it didn't look much different from the drab

life herein. That minimalism does subvert the moral joke. Patrick

Kenny's musical direction strikes nice balances between the onstage band

and the singers. The actors just need to settle in and push out the fun

they're already having. (Steven Leigh Morris). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S.

Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sun., Feb.

27, 7 p.m.; thru March 13. (310) 477-2055.

AFTERMATH Elliot Shoenman's comedic drama studies a widow named Julie

(Annie Potts), and her almost adult children, still struggling to come

to terms with her husband's suicide three years previously. More like an

emotionally raw drama with a sprinkling of good laughs, Shoenman's play

unfolds like a typical 1950s kitchen sink drama, the strip-mining kind

where secrets and recriminations are laid bare and the obligatory

catharsis ensues. This notion is visually supported by co-producer and

set designer Gary Guidinger's realistic kitchen-and teenager-bedroom

set. What isn't necessary is the slide show across the back flats

repeatedly displaying the pathetically inadequate suicide note Julie was

left with, and which also illustrates her children's passage to

adulthood. Everyone in the capable cast gets at least one monologue,

from the hostile son, Eric (Daniel Taylor), to the mild-tempered

daughter, Natalie (Meredith Bishop), to their father's former best

friend and Mom's possible new boyfriend, Chuck (Michael Mantell). With

her pixie haircut and thick N.Y. accent, Potts wavers from droll to

distraught, only sometimes stridently overcompensating for first-night

nerves and an ensemble performance that occasionally seemed to lose its

rhythm. At its best, the incisive dialogue volleys back and forth like

an enthralling game of tennis. Mark L. Taylor directs this slice of

dysfunction well. (Pauline Adamek). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda

Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13. (310)

477-2055.

GO CYRANO DE BERGERAC Director Rae Allen revels in

the equal measure of might assigned to pen and sword in Edmond Rostand's

word-centric, swashbuckling classic. Allen's sure hand in guiding the

text along a well-paced tragicomic trajectory begins with her decision

to slash the first scene significantly, depositing the legendary lead

character and his protruding nose onstage within a few minutes of the

outset. John Colella tackles the titular role with an overabundance of

seething anger and outward frustration at Cyrano's self-described

ugliness, neglecting at times the character's inherent charm, a crucial

hinge upon which the play's front door hangs: We have to fall in love

with Cyrano if we are to feel the requisite frustration over Roxanne's

(an arresting Olivia D'Abo) ill-informed choice of the doltish but

adorable Christian (a sufficiently hapless Toby Moore) rather than her

eloquent, adoring cousin. Romantic flatness aside, Colella successfully

thrusts home poetic parlance, bringing an effortlessness of speech to

the verbose role. Jonathan Redding does smarmy to perfection as the

pining Comte De Guiche, and Mark Rimer bumbles beautifully as Raggeneau.

Swordplay and balcony climbing are skillfully staged in the small

space. (Amy Lyons). Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa

Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (310) 397-3244.

DECIDER CRE Outreach presents a Changing Perceptions/Theatre by the

Blind production by Colin Simson, performed by the only entirely blind

theater troupe in America. Magicopolis, 1418 Fourth St., Santa Monica;

Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 10, creoutreach.org/decider. (310) 902-8220.

FIVE UNEASY PIECES Todd Waring's study of diverse characters,

including an elderly Southern woman, an Aussie art teacher, and a French

singer. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, plays411.com/five.

(323) 960-5521.

Free Are special talents a burden or a blessing? Set in a fantastical

backwoods America, Barbara Lindsay's lightweight comedy concerns the

woes of an itinerant performer named Free (Michael Earl Reid), whose

uncanny ability to levitate and then float in the air does little to

make him happy. Tired of being gawked at, he declares his intention to

chuck the carny life and get a job making beds at a seedy California

motel. The an-nouncement dismays his manager and longtime pal, Stoney

(Greg Albanese) -- not surprisingly, since Stoney's income depends on

his friend's mind-bending forte. Ultimately rescued by several comedic

performances, the play is slow getting started, in part because Free's

bellyaching persona is so simplistically crafted at the top, and also

because it's never clear what has triggered his crisis. Directed by

Wendy Worthington, the production eventually comes alive around Dagney

Kerr's sidesplitting portrayal of Althea, an obsessive fan who perceives

the wussy Free as the source of her own salvation. Donaco Smyth is

likewise extremely funny as Althea's hulking husband with the

disposition of a lamb. Also notewor-thy are McPherson as the hotel

housekeeper who inspires Free's decision to change his life, and

Albanese as a wannabe slick operator who turns out to really have a

heart. (Deborah Klugman). [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E.,

L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323)

461-3673.

GO HOBOKEN TO HOLLYWOOD: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE GREAT

AMERICAN SONGBOOK The big-band show in this musical (book by Luca

Ellis, Paul Litteral and Jeremy Aldridge) is staged as a

behind-the-scenes live taping of a late-1960s television special with a

star identified in the program only as "The Crooner." James Thompson's

authentic set comes with sound booth, TV cameras, microphones, lighting,

a spacious bandstand and stage, overhead video screens and neon

applause signs. Adding to the realism is lots of backstage banter,

numerous gaffes, miscues and retakes, and some well-placed comedy and

drama played out between director Dwight (Al Bernstein) and his

overworked and underappreciated assistant Andy (Pat Towne). There are

also cheeky commercial breaks for Shmimex watches and the all-new Ford

Mustang. Musical director Litteral and his nattily dressed 12-member

band (Jessica Olson's costumes are entirely on cue) combine into a

flawless, robust performance redolent of the best of Ellington or Basie.

Luca Ellis is a knockout from start to finish as the Crooner. How good

is he? If you close your eyes while he sings familiar tunes such as

"That's Life," "New York, New York" and "Fly Me to the Moon," you'd

swear the Chairman himself had come back for one last encore. As

masterfully woven together by director Aldridge, the material is so good

that the applause signs aren't really needed. (Lovell Estell III).

Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; thru March 27. (310) 399-3666.

NEW REVIEW GO THE HYACINTH MACAW An

unabridged dictionary can be a dangerous thing, particularly when it's

wielded with the playfully pleonastic dexterity of a stage poet like Mac

Wellman. Like a deranged Dr. Seuss for adults, Wellman marries a love

of wordplay with a mischievously subversive wit that entertains even as

it teases out the unspeakable fears festering at the fringes of American

complacency. In director Jim Martin's handsomely mounted production of

Wellman's 1994 fractured fairy tale, the playwright zeros in on our

gullible faith in the empty, "pneumatic" bromides and hackneyed romantic

tropes that form the fragile mythologies from which we make sense of a

larger, unknowable reality. In the case of the Moredent family of Bug

River, all of their assumptions about their very identities are upended

with the arrival of Mister William Hard (Jerry Prell), "a doctor of

divinity, equidistance and gradualist" from "the land of evening," who

announces that they are all orphans. It seems the father, Ray (Craig

Anton) is an "inauthentic duplicate" of Hard and the two must trade

places to redress the error. Blithely accepting the news, Ray packs his

bag and departs, freeing wife Dora (Lysa Fox) to run off with an

itinerant vagabond (Simon Brooke), while daughter Susannah (Anna Steers)

remains behind to help Hard bury the eerily glowing remains of the

dying moon. While Martin's staging underscores the text's whimsical

non-sense at the expense of its more mordant phenomenological musings,

Cristina Bejarano's imaginative, angular set and Nick Davidson's

hauntingly evocative lights eloquently support Wellman's off-kilter

cosmos. Royal Theater aboard the Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long

Beach; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m., through March 12. (562) 985-5526, calrep.org. A California Repertory production. (Bill Raden)

GO
JULIA Playwright Vince Melocchi's sweet,

melancholy drama artfully makes the point that, of all the sorrows,

nothing beats the sadness of being haunted by guilt over a long-ago

romantic misdeed. Lou (Richard Fancy), a frail old man who clearly does

not have too much sand left in the hourglass, shambles into a run-down

Pittsburgh coffeehouse, ostensibly to witness the razing of the local

department store where he worked some 50 years ago. However, his real

purpose in returning to the scene is an attempted reconciliation with

his long-lost sweetheart, Julia, whom he feels guilty for spurning many

years ago. However, Julia (Roses Prichard), who now has Alzheimer's

disease, doesn't even remember her own son, Steve (Keith Stevenson).

Melocchi's writing is deceptively top-heavy with conversations that at

first appear pointless but gradually coalesce to construct the

psychological underpinnings of strikingly plausible blue-collar

characters. In director Guillermo Cienfuegos' mostly subtle and

emotionally nuanced production, the pacing could stand some amping up,

but the feeling of reality encompassed by the interactions and

confrontations is haunting at times. In his turn as the gruff, cranky

Lou, Fancy builds on our expectation that the character is a feeble old

coot, gradually shifting him into a figure whose regret and rage are all

too understandable. Prichard is unusually believable as the tragically

blank Julia. Dramatically vivid work also is offered by Stevenson's

glum, disappointed Steve and by Haskell Vaughn Anderson III, as a family

friend who remembers all the parties when they were young. (Paul

Birchall). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (310) 822-8392.


KISS ME, KATE The Relevant Stage presents Cole Porter's

play-within-a-play musical romcom. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. Sixth

St., San Pedro; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30

& 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (800) 838-3006.

NEW REVIEW GO LOCKED AND LOADED

Stage Raw: Theatrification and Broadway 100

Photo by Cydne Moore

Ever hear the joke about the two guys with terminal brain tumors who

decide to beat death to the punch? A Jew and a WASP dress up in tuxes,

rent a presidential suite stocked with their favorite booze and call

some hookers to help them go orgasmic into that good night. OK, so the

subject matter and setup of, and even the quietly heartbreaking

backstories in, actor-playwright Todd Susman's play are a little

derivative -- Leaving Las Vegas and Marsha Norman's play 'Night, Mother

spring to mind -- but some very clever writing and smart performances

make this West Coast premiere much funnier and more mystical than the

approach its predecessors took. Particularly interesting is Susman's

deliberate trafficking in stereotypes. Old-monied Dickie Rice (Andrew

Parks) is haughty as he hurls three strikes in quick succession at an

African-American hooker, sniffing, "Do you know who I am?" and referring

to her "Aunt Jemima" style of speaking. Sad-clown sitcom writer Irwin

Schimmel (Paul Linke) turns his poison pen on himself and his Jewish

heritage, and Catorce Martinez's (Terasa Sciortino) inability to

understand English subtleties is the source of many jokes. But in

electing Princess Lay-Ya (a very sharp Sandra Thigpen) queen pin, Susman

gives the underdog the upper hand, which Lay-Ya uses to force the

superficialities aside to reveal the very real, raw pain coursing

beneath. After such deep diving, the resurface at play's end is a little

easy; nevertheless, the whole shebang is a much more entertaining

evening than the premise portends. Chris DeCarlo directs. Santa Monica

Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3:30

p.m., through April 16. (310) 394-9779. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

A NIGHT AT THE OSCARS Peter Quilter's comedy about a thespian couple

preparing to sing at the Academy Awards. Malibu Stage Company, 29243

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

20, brownpapertickets.com. (310) 589-1998.

GO PARADISE PARK A profoundly despondent fellow

(Kenneth Rudnicki) wanders into an amusement park for distraction from

his agony. Inside, he slips into a fantasia of scenes --including his

own romance with a young woman (Reha Zemani) from the Midwest, igniting a

bundle of neuroses that keeps them estranged; a

ventriloquist/philosopher (Ann Stocking) and his bifurcated dummy (David

E. Frank); a tourist couple (Bo Roberts and Cynthia Mance) at the end

of the tether that's barely holding their marriage together; their irate

young daughter (KC Wright) who yearns, in vain, for an effete Cuban

(Tim Orona); a psychotic pizza-delivery boy (Jeff Atik); a wandering

violinist (Lena Kouyoumdjian); a circus clown (Troy Dunn); and, in a

directorial flourish, a guy in a chicken costume. Charles Mee's comedy

is like a sonnet with a couple of repeated motifs: distraction, love and

the general feeling of being cast adrift in cultural waters that are

partly enchanting, partly evaporating, and partly polluted by the refuse

of our ancestors, of our families, of our determination to follow

impulses we barely comprehend, and to wind up unutterably lost. He's one

of this company's favorite scribes, and mine, for the way in which,

with the literary touch of a feather, he conjures primal truths of what

keeps us at odds with ourselves and with each other, keeps us yearning

for the unattainable. And though there's obviously psychology at work,

the driving energies of the language and of the drama are subconscious,

cultural and historical currents. Production designer Charles Duncombe

anchors his platform set with a wading pool stage center, in which sits

an alligator, and he decorates it above with strings of festival lights.

Josephine Poinsot's costumes are thoroughly whimsical with primary

colors and a feel for an America of the late 1950s -- with the possible

exception of the married couple's matching shorts and T-shirts that

read, "Kiss my ass, I'm on vacation." Director Frederique Michel stages

the poetical riffs of text in her typically arch style, and it serves

the play almost perfectly, except for the pizza-delivery scene, where

the choreography distracts from the psychosis that lies at the core.

Even so, I found the evening to be indescribably affecting, tapping

emotions that lurk beneath the machinery of reason. This is the last

production to be staged at this back-alley venue in Santa Monica, where

the company has been putting on plays for 15 years. The ventriloquist's

lines couldn't have been more ironic and true: "Then, because the

theater is the art form that deals above all others in human

relationships, then theater is the art, par excellence, in which we

discover what it is to be human and what is possible for humans to be

... that theater, properly conceived, is not an escape either but a

flight to reality, a rehearsal for life itself, a rehearsal of these

human relationships of which the most essential, the relationship that

defines most vividly who we are and that makes our lives possible, is

love." (Steven Leigh Morris). Track 16 Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., C1,

Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13,

citygargage.org. (310) 319-9939.

STANLEY ANN: THE UNLIKELY STORY OF BARACK OBAMA'S MOTHER Workshop

production of Ann Noble's one-woman play, presented by Missyng Pictures,

in cooperation with the Los Angeles Theater Ensemble and Powerhouse

Theatre Company. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 6, latensemble.com. (310)

396-3680.

NEW REVIEW TUCUMCARI

Stage Raw: Theatrification and Broadway 100

Photo by Ed Krieger

Riley Steiner's bittersweet country tale transports us to a 1930s

motor-court homestead along a remote, dusty New Mexico stretch of Route

66. For young bride Lillian (Ciera Parrack), marriage means embarking

upon a new life and exploring the vast world beyond her Albuquerque

farm. But on her honeymoon she is dismayed to learn that her new

husband, Lyle (Logan Fahey), has a different future all worked out for

them -- running the motel he won in a card game. Lil makes the most of

her lot and all is going well until a handsome traveler passes through

their tiny town of Tucumcari. Meaningful looks exchanged between Lil and

Cade (Robert W. Evans) suggest a heated past. When Cade stays on to

help Lyle build a porch, Lil finds her affections are divided. Pretty as

a picture, Parrack is excellent as the stubborn and feisty heroine,

conveying a deep and conflicted longing for the life she always dreamed

of having. As quiet and slow as a country mile, Steiner leaves plenty of

space between the spoken words, and director Doug Traer preserves the

languid rural pace of this sweet and simple life. While it's enjoyable

to watch the porch taking shape, the lean story merely plods along.

Upstage, behind a scrim, a trio of country singers (Aric Leavitt, Rachel

Kiser and Pat Whiteman Astor) yodel and harmonize exquisitely to the

strains of banjo, guitar and fiddle, singing cowboy and coyote tunes.

Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly

Hills (on the Beverly Hills High School campus); Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.,

Sun., 2 p.m., through Feb. 27. (310) 364-0535. (Pauline Adamek)