Stage Raw: Them's the Break/s

Stage Raw: Them's the Break/s

AT YOUR FINGERTIPS, THIS COMING WEEK'S COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS 

AND LAST WEEK'S NEW THEATER REVIEWS

Note: There are no NEW THEATER REVIEWS this week due to the annual People issue. Normal theater coverage resumes next week.

THE BREAK/S: A MIXTAPE FOR STAGE

Stage Raw: Them's the Break/s

Upcoming Events

Marc Bamuthi Joseph in the break/s: a mixtape for stage Photo courtesy of REDCAT

With rapid-fire wordplay and poetic reveries combined with intense physical movement," Marc Bamuthi Joseph's the break/s: a mixtape for stage investigates the conflicts between the performer's public identity as a successful spoken word artist (he's the artistic director of the Living Word Project, and a former National Slam Poetry champion) and his private identity as a young man coming of age "in our globalized, mutli-everything era." Cornerstones Theater Company's artistic director, Michael John Garcés, directs in a percussive call-and-response format with turntablist DJ Excess and multi instrumentalist Ajayi Jackson, accompanied by video by Eli Jacobs Fantauzzi.

Performances are at REDCAT, located at the corner of Second and Hope streets inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex, downtown. Wednesday, April 22-Saturday, April 25, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., April 26, 3 p.m. Tickets here.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for April 24-30, 2009

Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Martin Hernandez,

Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson,

Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver.

These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas

OPENING THIS WEEK

AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Broadway tribute to jazz entertainer Fats Waller.

Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens April 24; Tues.-Fri.,

8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru May 31.

(213) 628-2772.

AND THE WAR CAME Collaboration by California Repertory Company about

the devastating costs of war. National Guard Armory, 854 E. Seventh

St., Long Beach; opens April 24; April 24-25, 8 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs.,

7:30 p.m.; May 8-9, 8 p.m.; thru May 9. (562) 985-5526.

APPLE Vern Thiessen's study of choices and consequences. (In rep with Incorruptible;

call for schedule.). Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241

Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; opens April 25; Sat., April 25, 8 p.m.;

Sun., 2 p.m.; Mon.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 24.

(310) 364-0535.

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS Musical-comedy based on the 1988 Frank Oz

movie, book by Jeffrey Lane, music and lyrics by David Yazbek. Cerritos

Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Dr., Cerritos; Fri.,

April 24, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 25, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 26, 3

p.m.. (562) 467-8818.

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

Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Tues., April 28, 8 p.m.;

Sun., May 3, 8 p.m.; Mon., May 4, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 10, 8 p.m.; Sun.,

May 17, 8 p.m.. (323) 960-7822.

EMILIE Lauren Gunderson's true story of Emilie du Châtelet's affair

with Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. South Coast Repertory, 655

Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; opens April 24; Tues.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.;

Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m.; thru May 10. (714) 708-5555.

FUBAR Life is all fucked up in Karl Gajdusek's play. Theatre of

NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; opens April 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 856-8611.

NOSTALGIA AND DREAMS White Buffalo Theatre Company presents Brett

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

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

24. (818) 569-3037.

A NUMBER Caryl Churchill's meditation on identity. Odyssey Theatre,

2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens April 25; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

2 p.m.; thru June 21. (310) 477-2055.

OUR TOWN Thornton Wilder's slice of Americana. Actors' Gang at the

Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; opens April 25;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 30. (310) 838-4264.

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

Theatre Center, 1540 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; opens April 26; Sat.-Sun.,

8 p.m.; thru May 31. (323) 960-7784.

RATED R THEATRE Sisters by Cherie Vogelstein: It's Okay, Honey by Le Wilhelm, Choice of Vegetable by Timothy Reinhard, At Sea by Mayo Simon, The Statue of Bolivar

by Eric Lane. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd.,

L.A.; Mon., April 27, 8 p.m.; Wed., April 29, 8 p.m.. (818) 997-6740.

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

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

Blvd., Sierra Madre; opens April 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30

p.m.; thru June 6. (626) 256-3809.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE

ASSUME THE POSITION Comedian Robert Wuhl's history lesson. El Portal

Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 3. (866) 811-4111.

BACK TO BACHARACH AND DAVID The songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal

David, performed by Mary Birdsong, Diana DeGarmo, Tom Lowe and Tressa

Thomas. Music Box, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.,

5 & 9 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 17, www.etix.com. (323) 464-0808.

THE BREAK/S: A MIXTAPE FOR STAGE Spoken-word/movement artist Marc

Bamuthi Joseph's remixed wordplay. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.;

Through April 25, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., April 26, 3 p.m.. (213) 237-2800.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF The Broadway hit about a Jewish milkman and his

daughters, book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon

Harnick. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Sun., 2 p.m.;

Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru April 26. (805) 667-2900.

GO GHOSTS There's nothing supernatural about Henrik

Ibsen's 1881 drama: his ghosts are our own bitter memories and the old,

dead ideas that continue to confine and stifle us. The form and the

language may be dated, but the issues are as fresh as ever. Mrs. Alving

(Deborah Strang) has crucified herself in the service of duty and

respectability that narrow provincial society and her own hypocritical

minister, Pastor Manders (Joel Swetow), have drilled into her. But her

efforts to do the right thing have back-fired because they were based

on lies, and her attempts to shield her son (J. Todd Adams) from hard

truths have almost destroyed him. Ibsen has structured his play like Oedipus Rex

-- or a modern whodunit. On a seemingly ordinary day, inconvenient

truths keep emerging, inexorably, till everything and everyone is

morally compromised or destroyed. Director-adapter Michael Murray has

assembled a fine cast (including Mark Bramhall and understudy Rebecca

Mozo); he calibrates their performances with precision, and reveals a

sharp eye for Ibsen's dark comedy. If one wanted to quibble, one might

wish the last scene had been played for a bit less melodrama, but

overall it's a terrific, coherent, and always engrossing production.

Nikki Delhomme provided the fine costumes. (NW) A Noise Within, 234

South Brand Blvd., Glendale; in alternating rep through May 9; call for

schedule. (818) 240-0910.


GO LOUIS & KEELY: LIVE AT THE SAHARA I haven't seen

this musical study of '50s lounge-act crooners Louis Prima and Keely

Smith since its transcendent premiere at Sacred Fools Theatre last

year, and oh, is it different. Documentary and Oscar-nominated film

maker Taylor Hackford has been busy misguiding writer-performers Jake

Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith's musical. Taylor took over from

director Jeremy Aldridge, who brought it to life in east Hollywood.

Smith and Broder have drafted an entirely new book, added onstage

characters - including Frank Sinatra (Nick Cagle) who, along with

Broder and Smith, croons a ditty. (As though Cagle can compete with

Sinatra's voice, so embedded into the pop culture.) They've also added

Prima's mother (Erin Matthews) and other people who populated the lives

of the pair. The result is just a little heartbreaking: The essence of

what made it so rare at Sacred Fools has been re-vamped and muddied

into a comparatively generic bio musical, like Stormy Weather (about Lena Horne) or Ella

(about Ella Fitzgerald). The good news is the terrific musicianship,

the musical direction originally by Dennis Kaye and now shared by

Broder and Paul Litteral, remains as sharp as ever, as are the title

performances. Broder's lunatic edge and Bobby Darin singing style has

huge appeal, while Vanessa Claire Smith has grown ever more comfortable

in the guise and vocal stylings of Keely Smith. It was the music that

originally sold this show, and should continue to do so. With luck,

perhaps Broder and Smith haven't thrown out their original script.

(SLM) Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 8

p.m.; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 3:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30

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

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

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

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

possible explanation for the dynamic and richly textured performances

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

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

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

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

(Daniel Zacapa, in a perfectly modulated interpretation of brutal

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

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

writhing and twitching, speaking with what one character calls a

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

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

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

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

effect has a transcendent beauty, but eventually this etherial device

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO MAURITIUS Theresa Rebeck's play has serious

moments, but essentially it's a comic crime caper, full of lies,

betrayals, cupidity and greed. The central figure is Jackie (Kirsten

Kollender), who, after years of family trauma, has inherited an old

stamp collection from her mother. Then her smarmy, pretentious

half-sister Mary (Monette Magrath) appears on the scene, claiming the

stamps are hers because her grandfather collected them. (In the absence

of a will, it's hard to say who has the legal claim, but nobody here is

concerned with legalities.) Jackie gradually realizes that the rare

stamps --issued in Mauritius in 1847 -- are worth millions. Mary

becomes entangled with a dubious philatelist (John Billingsley), a

likeable con-man (Chris L. McKenna) and a raffish gangster/gun runner

(Ray Abruzzo), who, with a collectors mania, is determined to own the

famous "Mauritians." Plot reversals abound, as ownership is debated,

negotiated, and fought over. The piece is so cleverly constructed that

we almost forget how slight it is, and director Jessica Kubzansky

provides a slick and polished production, with an impeccable cast. Set

designer Tom Bruderwitz makes admirable use of the theater's revolving

stage, and Tim Weiske's fight choreography is convincing. (NW) Pasadena

Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave.,Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4

& 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; call theater for numerous schedule

changes; thru April 26. (626) 356-7529.

GO OUR MOTHER'S BRIEF AFFAIR Playwright Richard

Greenberg uses words very carefully, not only to a carve a tone of

erudition and lyricism but in order to avoid redundancy. So when the

line, "She was an average situational liar but not at all a maker of

fables," is repeated in different scenes of his family drama/mystery,

one can infer added significance to that sentence. The slippery divide

between making fables and simply making stuff up lies at the heart of

this tenth Greenberg play to be premiered by this theater. The play is

bifurcated into two sections, each mirroring the other. The first part

is a kind of memory play, mostly narrated by each of the characters

directly to the audience and almost entirely spoken in the past tense.

It's a prose-poem, really, concerning the last deluded days in the life

of a New York City matriarch, Anna (Jenny O'Hara), who's in the mood to

be making confessions to her gay obit-writer son, Seth (Ayre Gross),

and his lesbian sister Abby (Marin Hinkle) - in for death-watch duties

from Laguna Beach, California. Keep in mind that there are no morbid

gurneys or hospital scenes. Under Pam MacKinnon's pleasingly blithe

staging, that drifts seamlessly between Beckettian and Wildean humors,

the characters are all parked comfortably on and around park benches in

some metaphoric autumn of Sybil Wickersheimer's set. Besides, Anna's

death may not be imminent but just another scare. This is the kind of

gnarly Jewish comedienne who can even invent her own demise. She tells

of a "brief affair" she once had, and the play feels like an

exploration of quaint family behaviors that somehow reflect on the

human condition. Then a bomb drops, which places the subject of her

affair (Matthew Arkin) on the stage of world horrors. It's a tricky,

tone shattering device meant to shift the scale of the play's concerns

from the domestic to the mythic - which seems right in a play that's

about how and why myths are invented. It sits right conceptually, less

so emotionally. When we're catapulted into Greenberg's world of larger

issues, it feels something like being jerked rudely up into a hot air

balloon from a comedy about behaviors to one about the psychology of

ethics. The play is supposed to get larger from its broader sense of

scale, but it actually deflates ever so slightly from the puncture of

Greenberg's pristine domestic universe, though this may be more an

issue of mechanics than concept. The ideas are so rich, and the

language so beautiful, the play's rude awakening certainly doesn't

diminish the credence of the event, and the ensemble is perfect. (SLM)

South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Tues.-Wed.,

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

through May 3. (714) 708-5555.

SABRINA FAIR Samuel Taylor's romantic comedy about a chauffeur's

daughter who returns from abroad a sophisticated young woman. Long

Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2. (562) 494-1014.

THE SEAFARER John Mahoney and Andrew Connolly star in Conor

McPherson's Irish poker game. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave.,

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

Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 24. (310) 208-5454.

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

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

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

'TIL DEATH DO US PART: LATE NITE CATECHISM 3 Catholic nun offers

lessons on marriage, by Maripat Donovan with Marc Silvia. Laguna

Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.;

Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 3. (949) 497-2787.

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU George S. Kaufman Moss Hart's 1936 comedy

about an eccentric New York family. West Valley Playhouse, 7242

Owensmouth Ave., Canoga Park; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.;

thru April 26. (818) 884-1907.

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

done had he access to the Internet, cell phones, instant messaging and

video projection. In the midst of World War I, Dada protested bourgeois

culture and intellectual conformity, a mindset shared by the younger

brother of the groom who texts his screed against the post-9/11 world

to his blog as he mopes about a Los Angeles wedding reception. He,

along with the bride and groom's friends and their dates, make up the

group waiting for the happy couple to arrive in this collaboratively

developed play. Each of the 20-somethings has his or her own neurosis,

and most center on some aspect of love (the title of the piece if you

tilt your left ear downwards to look at it). Unfortunately, due to the

lack of through-line and character depth, the play ends up as episodes,

as though from a teen reality show. Director Jenny Byrd employs

creative blocking and gets a good effort from the cast, but even their

best can't compensate for the dearth of substance in the text. The

extensive use of digital projection and multimedia is interesting at

times, but somewhat ham-fisted in the attempts to mimic the "ADD

lifestyle" of the millennial generation. One exception is a projection

of the L.A. skyline, which is both picturesque and realistically

creates a rooftop view of the city. Aside from that great view, most of

the event had me wondering WTF? (MK) Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave.,

L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through May 9. www.restartyourheart.com A

Brimmer Street Theatre Co. Production.

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

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

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

THE BIG RANDOM Just minutes into Dana Yeaton's road drama, you get

the unmistakable, justified feeling that the evening will be a long

one. Claire (Madison Flock) is a gangly teenager with an oddly charming

demeanor ; she's been confined to a mental institution because she is a

"cutter." She is heavily medicated and seemingly trapped in an inner

world of lurid, violent fantasies, until a sudden visit by her

estranged godfather Roland (Eric Charles Jorgenson), whom she slyly

cons into helping her escape. At this juncture, the story starts to

take off but never quite leaves the ground. The pair head north to

Canada, stop to eat, stop to sleep, get stopped by a gendarme, camp out

in the woods, see the sights, and eventually wind up at a church where

something spiritual occurs - a heavenly grace that feels more like a

convenience for the playwright than a convincing transformation. That

Yeaton fails to tell much of a story here is just part of the problem.

Despite his neatly written script, he hardly scratches the surface of

Claire's pathology (one that is shared by many young girls), and leaves

too many questions lingering. Teenager Flock turns in a fine

performance under Sam Roberts' direction. (LE3) Attic Theatre and Film

Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

& 7 p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 960-7776.

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

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

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

BRONZEVILLE Blacks relocate from the South to Little Tokyo, circa

World War II, in Tim Toyama and Aaron Woolfolk's play. Los Angeles

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

p.m.; thru May 17. (213) 489-0994.

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

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

thru May 30. (323) 969-1707.

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

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

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

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

playing head games and sniping at each other. Shores

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

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

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

Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 26. (323) 954-9795.

DEAD, THEREFORE I AM Max Leavitt's goth-punk comedy. East Theatre at

the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3

p.m.; thru May 24. (323) 960-7714.

GO THE DEVIL WITH BOOBS Director Tom Quaintance and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quaintance provides fluid, intelligent direction, but the cast is

flawlessly funny. Even the musical ditties scattered throughout are

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

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

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

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

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

882- 6912.

GO DIVORCE! THE MUSICAL Erin Kamler's witty and

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

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

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

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

sophisticated musical juxtapositions and harmonies. (Musical direction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Director Rick Sparks gets clean, accomplished performances from his

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 17. (323)

960-1056.

DOOMSDAY KISS Four plays intertwine with musical performances and an

art installation in this apocalyptic multimedia collaboration. Bootleg

Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru May 10. (213) 389-3856.

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

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

934-9700.

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

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

L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 960-7726.

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

GO GROUNDLINGS, IN THE STUDY, WITH THE CANDLESTICK.

If you want a "clue" as to the subtle new direction LA's premier

venerable comedy troop has taken with this new show, you have only to

take note of these past paced, if ever-so-slightly disturbing sketches,

which are often hilarious, even as they crackle with undercurrents of

irony and unease. If previous seasons of The Groundlings have felt

perhaps overly influenced by shows such as Saturday Night Liveand MadTV-

shows for which the stage company is admittedly the farm team - these

vignettes, crisply directed by Jim Rash, possess echoes of the

character-driven comedy of Catherine Tate or of the Little Britainseries.

The result is a series of gags that boast a coterie of unusually vivid

grotesques -- even though we're sometimes tempted to withdraw from what

inevitably turns into a Freaks Parade. The striking standouts include a

hateful, brittle, borderline abusive elementary school math teacher

(Annie Sertich), who whizzes past class algebra questions with sadistic

intensity because she's not being allowed to go on the singles cruise

she wants; to the towering, creepy, dirty old dad (Kevin Kirkpatrick),

who introduces his sex kitten girlfriend (Edi Patterson) to his

appalled son (Nat Faxon). Other particularly hilarious skits include

one featuring a pair of slackers (Mikey Day and Andrew Friedman), who

don 3-D glasses to enjoy the a frighteningly realistic three

dimensional sword and sorcery epic -- and a spooky skit in which a pair

of psychotic high school age Christian fundamentalists (Kirkpatrick and

Sertich, again) warn of the dire consequences if they don't wind up

being elected co-class presidents. Some of the skits peter out long

before they should, while a few others go on for much longer than they

ought. However, the unusual quirkiness of the production suggests an

intriguing and fresh new direction for the group that should continue

to be explored. (PB) Groundlings Theatre, 7307 Melrose Ave, West

Hollywood; Fri. 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; through April 25. (323)

934-4747.

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

GO HOME SIEGE HOME With a calculated blend of

ancient lyricism and contemporary humor, Ghost Road Theater Company

rolls out its free-wheeling and substantively edited adaptation of

Aeschylus' trilogy, The Oresteia, told over two separate

bills. (Depending on the schedule, they can be seen in one day with a

dinner break, or on two separate evenings.) If you're not familiar with

the epic, you really should know that it hinges on a series of murders,

though the first is technically a sacrifice. Seeking to "rescue" his

brother's wife, Helen of Troy, from an "abduction" which triggered the

Trojan War, General Agamemnon (Ronnie Clark) sacrifices his own

daughter, Iphigineia, to the god Artemis in order to obtain favorable

sea winds for his Troy-bound ships. And in Part 1 (Clytemnestra),

though Agamemnon feels truly rotten about the deed (he slit his own

daughter's throat), his wife Clytemnestra (Trace Turville in Part 1,

Christel Joy Johnson in Part 2) feels even more rotten, obsessively

mercilessly rotten: Upon her hubby's heroic homecoming, she butchers

him in their bed. Excised from Ghost Road's interpretation are a couple

of characters who complicate our emotional attachments. In her

husband's absence, Clytemnestra took a lover, Aegisthus, who aided in

the murder and who doesn't appear here. Furthermore, Agamemnon pulled

into the driveway with Roman slave-mistress Cassandra in his chariot.

Such a publicly displayed sex toy would certainly put a kink in

director Katharine Noon's "Hi, honey, I'm home" '50s suburban

aesthetic. So Cassandra is also in absentia. What remains is a nuclear

family and a house, like the House of Atreus that could really be in

Covina, crumbling, slowly. Noon and company aim to conjure the

psychological and cosmic forces that lead to the end of an era, which

is pretty much what we're feeling right now in our sliver of history,

so it's not hard to find connective tissue. In Part 2 (Elektra),

the eponymous daddy's girl (a role shared by Mandy Freund and Christel

Joy Johnson) is the now seething daughter of Clytemnestra and the

murdered Agamemnon. She sets up camp in an alley, broadcasting her rage

against her mother's deed over a makeshift radio, like some ignored and

increasingly deranged revolutionary, while awaiting the return of her

brother Orestes (Ronald Wingate in Part 1, Clark in Part 2). Her bro

does eventually arrive, though still a little soft in the masculinity

department. With Elektra's goading, he blusters his way to murder his

mother, Clytemnestra, in order to avenge his father's death - that

would be killing number three, setting in place cycles of violence that

will spin for centuries. And if Orestes doesn't feel ambivalent enough

over what he just did, the Three Furies (the entrancing Sarah Broyles,

with JoAnna Senatore, and Madelynn Fattibene) torment him to the

margins of already precarious sanity in Part 3 (Orestes), when

they're not lounging around in cocktail dresses sipping martinis and

playing bridge. Noon's production grows increasingly absorbing as it

progresses. Among its strengths is the visual unity of Maureen Weiss'

set - a house that folds up into a suitcase. (Tattered suitcases and

their symbol of exile anchor Noon's lucid point of view.) By Part 3, as

their world is crumbling, the characters play their scenes in

allegorically constricted compartments. The performances are never less

than competent and often inspired. Though Turville's Clytemnestra

offers little of the magnetic force and comedy that Jacqueline Wright

brought to an earlier version of this project, Clyt at Home,

Turville comes into her own with wry authority as bitch-goddess Athena,

bossing around Apollo (Wingate) in Part 3. The dialogue careens from

petulant platitudes ("You murdered someone who was really important to

me" and "The world is fucking complicated. It's not black and white.")

to snippets of exalted poeticism. Brian Weir plays Helen of Troy's

daughter Hermione in drag, yet without a trace of campiness. She's the

outcast, and our narrator. "I don't belong to this house," she says

tenderly, "but it belongs to me." As it does to all of us. [Inside] the

Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood; in rep, call for schedule.

(323) 461-3673. A Ghost Road Company production. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GOHOWLIN' BLUES AND DIRTY DOGS The spirit of the

blues pulsates resoundingly throughout this stirring musical based on

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sun., April 26, 3 p.m.;

Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 3, 3 p.m.; Sat., May 9, 8 p.m.; Sun.,

May 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 16, 3 p.m.; thru May 15. (310) 462-1439.

L.A. VIEWS II: TALES OF PRESENT PAST The Alexandria itself stars in

this remembrance of the hotel's celebrity past and reflection on its

place in the present. Company of Angels, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S.

Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru May 10.

(323) 883-1717.

GO LAND OF THE TIGERS Act 1 of the Burglars of Hamm's hilarious and thought provoking comedy outlandishly crosses Cats with Planet of the Apes.

In a whimsical world where felines walk upright and speak English (but

thankfully don't caterwaul "Memory") a veritable Kingdom of Tigers

prance around in feathered wigs and top coats, while debating important

matters (to cats, anyway) in the Tigressional Congress. Amongst this

group, the great warrior Sabertooth (Hugo Armstrong) goes into lustful

cat heat for sultry she-tiger Sheba (Devin Sidell), which outrages

Sheba's fierce brother Fang Stalkington (Tim Sheridan), who has already

fathered several litters with the young beauty (remember, this is the

Tiger World, we're talking about). Full of bizarre cat mating dances,

and scenes in which characters shift instantly from conversing into

snarling Tiger-style, the Burglars' comedy is staged by Matt Almos with

acrobatic dexterity, a tongue-in-cheek tone, and perfect comic timing.

The reasons for slight touches of campiness become evident in Act Two,

however, which follows the cast of dimwitted and absurdly self

important actors as they are increasingly brainwashed by their

tyrannical, ego tripping director (a fabulous Dean Gregory, whose eyes

glitter with madness). Although the concept possesses slight echoes of Noises Off,

the Burglars cunningly explore a totally different avenue, elegantly

satirizing the sense of collective delusion that frequently befalls

performers in a mediocre show. The acting work is particularly

sprightly, and it's delightful how the bumbling tiger actors of Act 1

are subsequently revealed as the optimistic, dedicated, yet benighted

ensemble of Act 2. The end result, more than calculatedly dippy comedy

about cats, is an often compelling meditation on the creation of

theater itself, and how the audience will never glimpse the many dramas

within a play's production. (PB) Sacred Fools theater, 660 N.

Heliotrope Dr., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8, p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through

May 3. (310) 281-8337. A Burglars of Hamm, Sacred Fools Co-Production.

LITTLE WOMEN -- THE MUSICAL A feminist critic once observed that

Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel was told from the point of view of

the jailers, not the inmates. In less loaded language, it represented

the values of the parents, not the children. This was often the price

of writing in the 19th century, which required edifying morals in its

stories. Yet Alcott was able to inject enough reality in her tale to

make it memorable. This version, however, adapted by Allan Knee, with

songs by Jason Howland and Mindi Dickstein, hews strictly to the

musical comedy formula, rendering it genteel and predictable. Every

song delivers precisely what we expect, and that tends to bore. One

wishes they'd stop singing and get on with the story. Still, this

rendition is sometimes superior to the Broadway production: it's more

emotionally coherent and touching, if less handsomely designed.

Director Thomas Colby serves the piece faithfully, and the performances

are generally good. Cassandra Marie Nuss's Jo is over-brassy but

serviceable, Kaitlyn Casanova deftly manages Amy's transition from

bratty child to beautiful woman, and Bonnie Snyder restores the pepper

to irascible Aunt March. As for the rest, what they really need is

sharper, less sentimental material. Lyric Theatre, (NW) 520 North La

Brea Avenue, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru April

26. (323) 939-9220.

LUMINOUS BIRCH: AND THE SPLENDOR OF THE COLORLESS LIGHT OF EMPTINESS

Ever since the days of Artaud, the seemingly irreconcilable ontological

differences between the live stage and the motion picture have led to

an uneasy truce that can be expressed roughly as, "render unto cinema

the things which are cinema's . . . and let theater do the rest."

Writer-director Randy Sean Schulman is having none of that. In this

deeply personal, solo-performance work (co-directed by Jane McEneaney),

Schulman attempts an audacious shotgun marriage of the two media by

interacting with a screening of his own, fully realized, widescreen

version of a Mack Sennett-styled silent film. Sort of a cryptic,

Hegelian meditation on time, mortality and the transcendent power of

love, the piece opens onscreen with the Chaplinesque castaway, Luminous

Birch (Schulman), separated from his true love, Tangerine (Delcie

Adams), by a sea mishap. Birch, who literally climbs out of the

onscreen pantomime into the theater, can only impotently prowl the

stage as Tangerine is harried by the nefarious Absurd Conquistador (Roy

Johns) in the movie. Unfortunately, despite lush production values

(John Burton's set, Cameron Lowe's cinematography and Ingrid Ferrin's

costumes are all outstanding), even Schulman's seductive stage alchemy

can't make oil and water mix. The filmed spectacle so overshadows its

live counterpart that the formal tensions upon which Schulman relies to

make sense of the proceedings are all but lost. (BR) Greenway Court

Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.;

thru May 10. (323) 655-7679.

GO MAGNUM OPUS THEATRE: LOVE WRITTEN IN THE STARS

The fury of reading through piles of crappy screenplays for exploitive

wages has to be what motivated this vicious comedy series. As

playwright Jon Robin Baitz once said, L.A. theater offers a response to

the "toxicity of living in a company town," and Magnum Opus Theatre is

a very strong response to just that. In director Joe Jordan's crisp as

toast style, a company of nine performs this excruciating screenplay

with unfettered mockery, with Your Host Thurston Eberhard

Hillsboro-Smythe, a.k.a. "Thursty" (Brandon Clark, in red dinner jacket

and the droll pomposity of Alistaire Cooke in Masterpiece Theatre)

reading all the stage directions, including misspellings. This is the

story of a chubby girl named Amber (Franci Montgomery, who is not

chubby at all, which is part of the joke), abused like Cinderella by

her beer-swilling aunt (CJ Merriman), who curses her, slaps her and

calls her a pig -- a Punch and Judy show by any other name. Amber has a

fantasy lover, the ghost of a Hollywood actor (Michael Lanahan)

accidentally slain during the filming of a gangster gun battle. Through

plot convolutions to tedious to enumerate, Amber winds up in Hollywood,

in a movie about her travails, for which she receives an Academy Award.

As the plot slid into its final trajectory, the crowd shouted out

"noooooh", as it became cognizant of where this was heading. Any play

can be ridiculed simply by employing theatrical devices used here:

Whenever "Thursty" reads: "Jeff gives her a passionate kiss," Lanahan

uses his fingers to withdraw a sloppy kiss from his mouth, which he

then palms off to Montgomery's hand, who then slips the "kiss" into her

blouse. But even this wildly presentation brand of theatrical ridicule

can't disguise the artlessness of the dialogue and stage directions.

What emerges through the event's cruelty, besides the mercifully

unnamed screenwriter's ineptitude, is a portrait of the writer, for

whom Amber is an obvious standin. As the lampoon wears itself out,

we're left with something underneath that's gone beyond parody to the

pathetic - the reasons that somebody would have written such a story in

the first place, and the hollow, generic fantasies that serve as balm

for her feelings of isolation. Watching this show is like watching well

trained runners pushing somebody out of a wheelchair. That's a comic

bit from old sketch TV shows, but 90 minutes of it leaves you feeling

that the company's comic fury is so strong, and its skills so sharp,

the joke has been propelled beyond its target to a very dark place

indeed. (SLM) Sacred Fools Theatre, 660 N. Heliotrope, L.A.; Fri., 11

p.m.; through May 1. (310) 281-8337.

MADE ME NUCLEAR On March 1, 2006, singer-songwriter Charlie Lustman

was informed by his doctor that he had a rare OsteoSarcoma (bone

cancer) of the upper jaw. What followed was a grueling and painful

siege of therapies, involving radiation injected into his body, surgery

removing three quarters of his jawbone, surgical reconstruction, and

extensive chemotherapy. When, after two years of treatment, he was

declared cancer free, he created this touching 12-song cycle about his

experiences. He sings about the bone-numbing shock and terror of being

told he had cancer, his fear of death and sense of helplessness, the

solace provided him by his loyal wife, his children and his doctors,

memory problems caused by his chemo (mercifully temporary), and so on.

But the tone is more celebratory than grim: he's determinedly

life-affirming, full of hope and gratitude, and his songs are pitched

in an intimate, jazzy, bluesy style. He's an engaging and personable

performer (thanks in part to his skillful doctors), who brings rueful

humor and mischief to a tale that might have been unrelievedly grim. If

anything, tries a bit too hard to keep things light. We need a bit of

scarifying detail if we're to appreciate his remarkable resilience and

optimism. (NW) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., through March 28. (866) 468-3399 or

http://www.MadeMeNuclear.com Produced by the Sarcoma Alliance.

GO MUNCHED Katie Paxton's two older sisters died

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

El Centro Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 2. (323)

960-5771.

GO PHOTOGRAPH 51 This West Coast premiere of Anna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

uncomfortable friction with Wilkins and the rest of the chauvinistic

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

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

blueprint. While Rosalind remains the consummate professional, even

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

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

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

photographs ends up becoming crucial to unlocking the mystery. Director

Simon Levy efficiently orchestrates the manipulation of time and space,

turning vast leaps into imperceptible segues, and inspiring powerful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO THE PRODIGAL FATHER Those worried that Larry

Dean Harris' breezy drama about a gay playwright and his bigoted,

Alzheimer's-addled father might have something to do with terminal

brain disease can rest easy. The soul-destroying illness is little more

than the thinnest of medical MacGuffins in a story whose true subject

is the sometimes-paradoxical ways in which codes of masculinity are

transmitted and reified in male bonds. For Bible Belt-bred, stage

scribe Jamey Sanders (Allain Rochel), that means the same hyper-macho

traits so reviled in Earl (Max Gail), Jamey's estranged, Korean

War-veteran bear of a father, are precisely what attracts him to Nick

(Joe Rose), his older, construction-worker bear of a lover. When the

memory-challenged Earl unexpectedly flees his Tennessee convalescent

home and lands on the gay couple's Chicago doorstep, Jamey must resolve

long-deferred Oedipal issues if he is to both hold onto Nick and effect

the story's bizarre reconciliation while Earl still has half a mind.

Along the way, Harris offers the unseemly narrative novelty of

employing Earl's spells of dementia as dramatic flashbacks to some

metaphorically murky coon hunts from Jamey's childhood. Nevertheless,

brisk direction by Michael Matthews and strong performances from a

veteran cast (Josette DiCarlo is particularly fine doubling as the

boys' flamboyantly flirty friend and Jamey's deceased mother) make it

an entertaining ride. (BR) Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 26. (323)

957-1884.

RICHARD III REDUX: OUR RADICAL ADAPTATION The Veterans Center for the Performing Arts mashes up Shakespeare's Richard III and Henry VI, Part 3

as a study of post-traumatic stress disorder. Mortise & Tenon

Furniture Store, Second Floor, 446 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., Sun., 8

p.m.; thru June 8. (888) 398-9348.

R.U.R. "Rossum's Universal Robots" revolt in Kael

apek's 1921 play. Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 16. (800) 838-3006.

SERIAL KILLERS Late-night serialized stories, voted on by the

audience to determine which ones continue. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N.

Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru May 2. (310) 281-8337.

SEX, RELATIONSHIPS, AND SOMETIMES ... LOVE Monologues on all of the

above, by Joelle Arqueros. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.;

Sun., 7 & 9 p.m.; thru May 10. (310) 226-6148.

SIN: A CARDINAL DEPOSED The 2002 deposition of Cardinal Bernard Law

had all the elements of great theater: small heroes, a giant villain,

and a troublesome morality that raised more questions than it answered.

But while all the pieces are there, they still need to be shaped, and

playwright Michael Murphy simply trims the transcripts and presents a

fictionally synthesized laywer (Steven Culp) and his inquisition of the

publicly disgraced (but Vatican-condoned) Cardinal (Joe Spano). It's

smart and interesting, but wearisomely literal. This leaves director

Paul Mazursky little to do but stage it as a stiff tableaux -- the

Catholic Church's last ethically superior supper -- centered on the

deposition table. At that table, the Cardinal is flanked by his lawyer

(Carl Bressler) and his fictionalized opponent. Add to this trio two

actors who read the letters of witnesses, truth seekers, and church

officials (Edita Brychta and Jack Maxwell, both great at shifting

through a dozen accents) and a molestation victim (Christian Campbell)

who oversees it all in silence. While the cast is quite good, that all

are reading from scripts adds to the inertia, leaving us restless

enough to wish that Murphy had dug beneath the surface and unearthed

questions he only gestures towards, such as the coexistence of good and

evil in priests whose six days of benevolence will never balance their

afternoons of selfish harm. (AN) Hayworth Theater, 2509 Wilshire Blvd.,

L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru May 6. (323) 960-4442.

GO STICK FLY Lydia R. Diamond's scintillating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gradually fracture lines appear. Despite their wealth and privilege,

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

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

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

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

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

seriously upset about something. Diamond's play combines complex

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

delicious comedy of contemporary manners. Director Shirley Joe Finney

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

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

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

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

GO TENNESSEE WILLIAMS UNSCRIPTED The audiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

home from the service and suffering from post-traumatic stress

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

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

comedic performances also by Jo McKinley as the repressed Widow Oleson

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

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

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

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

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

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

the comedy are comparatively languid in Williams, whereas the Austen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26. (800) 838-3006. An Impro Theater production

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

960-7785.

GO VOICE LESSONS Justin Tanner's very funny sitcom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sharply honed, his persisting challenge is finding something worth

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

of a hopelessly obviously talentless and aging pop singer, Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

For all its petulant ambitions, the evening is wildly entertaining

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

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

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

mountain of silent thoughts they reveal, Stewart provides the perfect

foil for Metcalf's meticulously executed tornado of psychosis and

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

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

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

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

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

VOX HUMANA PRESENTS "LITTLE THEATER" Overtones by Alice Gerstenberg; Trifles by Susan Glaspell; The Rope

by Eugene O'Neill. Hollywood Court Theatre, Hollywood United Methodist

Church, 6817 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7

p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 769-5794.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALL THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

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

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

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

BENEATH RIPPLING WATER Sybyl Walker portrays three women in love.

Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Through May 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 3 p.m.; thru

May 3. (866) 811-4111.

GO THE BIRD AND MR. BANKS Alternately ghoulish and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

production punches the weird, Addams Familytone with brio,

nicely balancing horror with genuine sympathy for the characters. From

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

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

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

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

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

BLACK ANGELS OVER TUSKEGEE The Black Gents of Hollywood present

Layon Gray's world-premiere drama about African-American fighter

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

Hollywood; Sat., 7:45 p.m.; thru May 2. (818) 754-5725.

THE CATERER LeVar Burton stars in Brian Alan Lane's drama as a

vendor of "appropriate" death. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd.,

Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru May 10,

www.thecatererplay.com. (818) 990-2324.

THE COLUMBINE PROJECT Paul Storiale examines the Colorado high

school massacre. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 9. (818) 766-9100.

GO A DON'T HUG ME COUNTY FAIR. This crowd-pleasing

cornball musical, by Phil and Paul Olsen, suggests a home-town talent

show combined with a sort of Minnesota Folk Play, full of bad jokes,

and set in a bar called The Bunyan, on the first day of the Bunyan

County Fair. Proprietor Gunner Johnson (Tom Gibis, who also plays

Gunner's man-hungry sister Trigger) is so uncomfortable talking about

feelings that he can't pronounce the word "love." His frustrated wife,

Clara (Judy Heneghan)m seeks attention by becoming a contestant in the

Miss Walleye Contest, whose winner will have her face carved in butter.

Also in the running are Trigger and Bernice (Katherine Brunk), a

scatty-but-shapely gal who longs to star on Broadway. And there are

other competitions: karaoke-machine salesman Aarvid Gisselsen (Brad

McDonald) and camping supplies tycoon Kanute Gunderson (Tom Limmel) vie

for the hand of Bernice, while Kanute and Gunner compete in the fishing

contest. The songs, by the Olsens, are rinky-tink and derivative,

borrowing melodies from everywhere, but somehow they work. The giddy

tone is set by Doug Engalla's direction, Stan Mazin's choreography, and

an astonishingly detailed set by Chris Winfield, featuring a karaoke

machine with a mind of its own. (NW) Lonny Chapman Group Repertory

Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, N. Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.,

Sun., 2 p.m., thru May 2. (818) 700-4878 www.lcgrt.com.

GO DRACULA Director Ken Sawyer, who recently helmed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

arsenal of haunted house special effects here, including lots of

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

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

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

Blvd.; N. Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through April 26.

(818) 508-7101.

THE FOOD CHAIN Nicky Silver's sex comedy about former gay lovers, a

married couple, and eating disorders. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim

Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 3.

(323) 860-6569.

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

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

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

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

triangle between self-absorbed best frenemy roommates -- hetero Helena,

gay Garth (Lordygan) and their selfish bisexual hustler lover Joe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

960-7712.

THE LAST HIPPIE: A WESTERN NOVEL Monologues by Vincent Mann about

the 1970s waning of hippie counterculture. Whitefire Theater, 13500

Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru May 12. (818) 783-6784.

MACBETH Forget radically deconstructed concept productions or

contemporary political reinterpretations, director Sean Branney

delivers no such surprises in his traditional and somewhat generic

staging of Shakespeare's Scottish noir. With the text more-or-less

intact ― even the oft-cut first witches' scene remains ― Branney's most

brazen liberty is to goose the testosterone with the kind of onstage

swashbuckling (choreographed by Brian Danner) that Shakespeare had

intended be played offstage. Otherwise, this bard is strictly by the

book. The good news is Andrew Leman's muscular, articulate turn as

brave Macbeth. Leman's performance is nobility personified; which is to

say his regal demeanor is only occasionally ruffled by the underlying

corruption of a "vaulting ambition" that will turn Macbeth, after

Richard III, into Shakespeare's most notorious regicidal maniac. As the

play's invidious femme fatale, McKerrin Kelly compliments Leman with a

Lady Macbeth who makes even icy ruthlessness seem sexy. Other standouts

include Daniel Kaemon's dashing Malcolm, and Mike Dalager and Danny

Barclay, whose pair of scurvy-chic Murderers looks like they stepped

out of a Guns N' Roses video. For the rest of the cast, costume

designer Christy M. Hauptman eschews highland tartan for robes of a

more indeterminate, medieval kind. That nonspecificity is continued in

the raised stone altar and henge-like monoliths of Arthur MacBride's

set, whose suggestion of Neolithic pagan ritual may be a clever design

for Macbeth . . . not, however, for this one, which never otherwise

hints at such themes. (BR) The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Toluca

Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 26; (818) 846-5323.

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE John Lahr updates Richard Condon's

political thriller. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley

Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 2,

www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOSE TALES The Zombie Joe Underground sniffs out "five lovable

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

Thurs.-Fri., 8:30 p.m.; thru April 24. (818) 202-4120.

SONG OF ST. TESS Chris Collins' tragedy about a San Francisco

divorce. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 960-7735.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK Stephen Mallatratt's ghost story, adapted from

the novel by Susan Hill. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd.,

Sherman Oaks; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru May 13. (866) 262-6253.

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

GO THE ACCOMPLICES Bernard Weinraub's documentary

drama reminds us of WWII's less benevolent aspects. He tells the story

of Peter Bergson, born Hillel Kook (Steven Schub), who devoted his life

to attempting to rescue Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe. Political

complexities inevitably overshadow Bergson's personal life, but they

are fascinating in their own right. Deborah LaVine skillfully melds a

fine cast into a gripping production. (NW). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S.

Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 14.

(310) 477-2055.

BETRAYAL Harold Pinter's bizarre love triangle. Little Fish Theatre,

777 Centre St., San Pedro; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 3, 7 p.m.;

thru May 14. (310) 512-6030.

GO THE BOURGEOIS GENTILHOMME You'd think, from

reading the world press, that racism and, by extension, classism, had

suddenly been vanquished from the nation - overnight, by a stunning

national election. Such is the power of symbolism and hope. Sooner or

later, we will settle into a more realistic view of who we are, and

were, and how we have evolved in ways perhaps more subtle than the

current "we are the world" emotional gush would lead one to believe.

It's in this more self-critical (rather than celebratory) frame of mind

that Moliè's 1670 comedy - a satire of snobbery and social climbing -

will find its relevance renewed. For now, however, Frederique Michel

(who directed the play) and Charles Duncombe's fresh and bawdy

translation-adaptation serves up a bouquet of comedic delights that

offer the caution that -- though celebrating a milestone on the path of

social opportunity is worthy of many tears of joy -- perhaps we

shouldn't get ahead of ourselves with self-congratulation. Bourgeois Gentlemanwas first presented the year Tartuffe,

and it contains many of the hallmarks of its more famous cousin: a

deluded and pompous protagonist (Jeff Atik); a con man (Troy Dunn)

aiming for social advancement by speculating on the blind arrogance of

his patron; and the imposition of an arranged marriage, by the insane

master of the house, for his crest-fallen daughter (Alisha Nichols).

The play was originally written as a ballet-farce, for which composer

Jean-Baptiste Lully performed in the production before the court of

Louis XIV. Michel's visually opulent staging features scenery (designed

by Duncombe) that includes a pair of chandeliers, and costumes (by

Josephine Poinsot) in shades of red, maroon and black. Michel employs

Lully's music in a nod to the original. (The singing is far too thin

even to support the jokes about its competence.) Michel also includes a

lovely ballet by performers in mesmerizing gtears of a clownh masks,

a choreographed prance of the fops, and she has characters bounding and

spinning during otherwise realistic conversations, in order to mock

style over substance. Comedy has a maximum refrigeration temperature of

75 degrees, and when that temperature was exceeded during Act 1 on the

performance I attended, the humor ran off the tracks - despite the

broad style being sustained with conviction by the performers. By Act

2, the heat problem had been remedied and the comedy started playing

again as it should. In fact, I haven't seen a comic tour de force the

likes of Atik's Monseiur Jordain since Alan Bomenfeld's King Ubu at A

Noise Within. As Jourdain is trying to woo a countess (the striking

Deborah Knox), Atik plays him attired in silks and bows of Ottoman

extravagance, with a blissfully stupid expression - every dart of his

eyes reveals Jordain's smug self-satisfaction that's embedded with

delirious ignorance. (SLM) City Garage, 1340½ (alley) Fourth Street,

Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; through May 8. (310)

319-9939.

BUNNY TALES EPISODE: IV: BUNNY WARS West of Broadway Theater Company

and Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California adapt the story of

Peter Rabbit, "for children of all ages.". Edgemar Center for the Arts,

2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 26. (310)

392-7327.

BURN THIS Lanford Wilson's drama about four New Yorkers and a

funeral is a slippery portrait of love and loss. Staged with a warm

cast, it's flush with hope; just as easily, though, a more aloof

ensemble can flip it into a play about emotional isolation where the

polite relationship between Anna (Marisa Petroro) and perfect-on-paper

boyfriend Burton (Jonathan Blandino) casts a cold shadow across all

dynamics, making her devotion to callously funny roomate Larry (Aaron

Misakian) and temperamental lover Pale (a wrenching and infuriating

Dominic Comperatore) seem nearly like pathological self-punishment.

Director John Ruskin sees this as a love story -- the scene breaks

twinkle with sentimental music -- however his cast isn't up to it and

hasn't even been instructed to at least pretend to be listening to each

other. (Burton's confession of a random blowjob from a strange man

rolls off Anna like he was droning on about the weather.) Comperatore's

combustible Pale has four times the spark of the rest of the ensemble

-- when he bursts into the scene, we see the gulf between what Wilson's

play could be and what this staging actually is. (AN) Ruskin Group

Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; through May 9. (310) 397-3244.

CINDERELLA: THE MUSICAL Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie's

family-friendly fairy tale. (Resv. required.). Santa Monica Playhouse,

1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Dec.

27. (310) 394-9779.

GO DESPERATE WRITERS: THE FINAL DRAFT This demented

farce by Joshua Grenrock and Catherine Schreiber should be catnip for

those who love Hollywood in-jokes. Ashley (Kate Hollingshead) and David

(Brian Krause) are lovers and writing partners; though they've been

writing for years, they've never sold a script. Ashley's convinced that

producers never actually read their scripts, so she kidnaps three of

them (writers Grenrock and Schreiber, and Andrew Ross Wynn) at

gunpoint, locking them in a wire cage in her living room (built before

our eyes by trusty techies). She prepares a gourmet meal for the

producers, while David reads to them -- despite their protests -- a new

script. The reading is punctuated by phone calls from agent Vanessa

(Jennifer Taub), a death by apoplectic fit, an earthquake, a

resurrection, and a home invasion by a pair of robbers (Scott Damian

and Stephen Grove Malloy) who drop off their pix and resumes on their

way out. And, oh, yes, the rental agent (Vivian Bang) arrives to show

the house to prospective tenants (Damian and Eden Malyn). The actors

are game and skillful, and director Kay Cole keeps the action spinning

along on Francoise-Pierre Couture's set, cleverly designed as an

architect's blueprint. (NW) Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St.,

Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 & 7 p.m., thru May 10.

(800) 838-3006 or http://desperatewriters.com.

DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK? Writer/performer Aaron Braxton has passion

and talent - both amply evident in this promising work-in-progress

about the difficulties of teaching in the urban classroom. A 13-year

veteran with L.A. Unified, Braxton builds his piece around his early

experience as a substitute teacher filling in for an old-timer - 33

years on the job - who one day ups and quits. A gift for mimicry brings

the performer's characters into clear comic focus: himself as the

beleaguered Mr. Braxton, several colorful problem students, their even

more colorful and problematic parents and another staff member -- a

well-meaning elderly bureaucrat in charge of the school's

counterproductive testing program. At times Braxton steps away from

dramatizing the action to speak to the audience directly about the

frustrations of trying to make a difference, contrasting his own

upbringing as the son of a teacher, taught to respect education, with

the imperviously disdainful attitude of his pupils. He also sings 4

songs, displaying a beautiful voice. The main problem with the piece is

its disjointedness and discontinuity; the songs, reflective of

Braxton's message, are only tenuously connected to the narrative,

itself a patchwork collection of anecdotes juxtaposed against addresses

to the audience. This gives the show a hybrid feel - part performance,

part moral exposition, part musical showcase. Yet there's plenty of

power and potential here. Kathleen Rubin directs. (DK) Beverly Hills

Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

through May 2. (310) 358-9936.

FIFTH OF JULY Lanford Wilson's farm-family drama. Long Beach

Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru May 23. (562) 494-1014.

HAY FEVER Noel Coward's 1924 comedy. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre

St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 7 p.m.; Thurs., May

21, 8 p.m.; thru May 23. (310) 512-6030.

INCORRUPTABLE Michael Hollinger's Dark Ages farce. (In rep with Apple,

call for schedule). Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241

Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Mon.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sat., 2

& 8 p.m.; thru May 21. (310) 364-0535.

LIONS Vince Melocchi's new play features nine men and a woman

decaying slowing in a private watering hole during an major economic

slump -- this major economic slump. Set during the 2007/2008 football

season, Melocchi's story centers on John Waite (Matt McKenzie), an

unemployed metalworker whose desire to see the Detroit Lions win the

Super Bowl supplants all other priorities in his life. As his immutable

pride keeps him from opportunity, he grows sour and angry, a textured

and nuanced transformation that McKenzie performs poetically, even at

explosive heights of cursing and fighting. The rest of the denizens

seem to spiral around him, perhaps sinking into his black hole of self

worth. Director Guillermo Cienfuegos allows us to spend time with each

of the hopeless, revealing the play's pith and brutality with a

sensitive hand. But this tends to expose the play's relatively minor

weaknesses: the conveniently contrived exits and entrances, the

shapelessness of some of the relationships -- especially considering

the large cast, clumsy dialogue that sometimes spills awkwardly into

scenes. The strong ensemble, though, piles through these uneven aspects

to deliver an all around touching portrait of middle America, a

reminder that "real Americans" need not be so reductively characterized

as simply Joe the Plumber. (LR) Pacific Resident Theater, 705 ½ Venice

Blvd., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 2. (310)

822-8392.

MADE ME NUCLEAR On March 1, 2006, singer-songwriter Charlie Lustman

was informed by his doctor that he had a rare OsteoSarcoma (bone

cancer) of the upper jaw. What followed was a grueling and painful

siege of therapies, involving radiation injected into his body, surgery

removing three quarters of his jawbone, surgical reconstruction, and

extensive chemotherapy. When, after two years of treatment, he was

declared cancer free, he created this touching 12-song cycle about his

experiences. He sings about the bone-numbing shock and terror of being

told he had cancer, his fear of death and sense of helplessness, the

solace provided him by his loyal wife, his children and his doctors,

memory problems caused by his chemo (mercifully temporary), and so on.

But the tone is more celebratory than grim: he's determinedly

life-affirming, full of hope and gratitude, and his songs are pitched

in an intimate, jazzy, bluesy style. He's an engaging and personable

performer (thanks in part to his skillful doctors), who brings rueful

humor and mischief to a tale that might have been unrelievedly grim. If

anything, tries a bit too hard to keep things light. We need a bit of

scarifying detail if we're to appreciate his remarkable resilience and

optimism. (NW) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., through May 30. (866) 468-3399 or

http://www.MadeMeNuclear.com Produced by the Sarcoma Alliance.

GO MISALLIANCE Be warned that G.B. Shaw's wordy

comedy of manners lopes for along for almost the entire first act

before finally taking off. And then it really flies. It's Set in 1909,

in the plush home (artfully realized by designer Stephen Gifford) of a

successful underwear retailer named Tarleton (Greg Mullavey), whose

daughter Hypatia (Abigail Rose Solomon) has become engaged to a whiny

aristocratic nerd (Orestes Arcuni). At first the play totters under the

weight of Shavian didactics: a plethora of chitchat about generational

and class conflicts, the experience of aging and the liberation of

women. The bright spot in this intermittently sleep-inducing stretch is

Solomon's captivating turn as a sharp young gal chafing under the

strictures of her gender; she's seconded in her charm by Maggie Peach,

endearing as her wise, albeit mildly ditzy mother. Happily, Act 2 gets

a lot livelier when an airplane piloted by a dashing young aviator

(Nick Mennell) and a liberated lady acrobat (Molly Schaffer) crashes

into the family greenhouse, followed by the clandestine entry of a

pistol-packing gunman (David Clayberg) determined to do Tarleton in.

The confrontation between the merchant and his would-be assassin forms

the nub of the second act's considerable humor, and it's heightened

further by the on-target performances of Mennell as Hypatia's new love

interest and Schaffer as the latest object of Tarleton's philandering

affections. By play's end, under Elina de Santos' direction, the

production has redeemed its dullish beginnings, delivering up more than

our ticket's worth of laughs. (DK) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda

Blvd., West L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 30. (310)

477-2055.

GO THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES The central character in

Moliè's comedy, here translated and adapted by FrééMichel & Charles

Duncombe could be and often is a punching bag. But not here. Arnolphe

is another in a stream of Moliè's aging, patronizing nitwits (like

Orgon on Tartuffe) who presume that they can control the devotions and passions of young women in their care. In Tartuffe,

when Orgon's daughter protests his insistence that she break her

wedding plans to her beloved suitor in order to marry the clergyman he

prefers, Orgon figures her rebellion is just a impetuous, child-like

phase. In The School for Wives, there's a similar mind-set to

Arnolphe (Bo Roberts), who has tried to sculpt his young ward, Agnes

(Jessica Madison), into his future wife. He's known her since she was

4, and he's strategically kept her closeted, as though in a convent,

hoping thereby to shape her obedience and gratitude. Just as he's about

to wed her, in stumbles young Horace (Dave Mack) from the street below

her window, and the youthful pair are smitten with eachother, soon

conniving against the old bachelor. Horace, not realizing that Arnolphe

is the man keeping Agnes as his imprisoned ward, keeps confiding in the

older man about his and Agnes' schemes, fueling Arnolphe's exasperation

and fury. Perhaps it's the use of director Michel's tender, Baroque

sound-tracks, or the gentle understatement of Roberts' performance and

Arnolphe, but the play emerges less as a clown show, and more as a

wistful almost elegiac rumination on aging and folly. Arnolphe tried to

create a brainless wife as though from a petri dish, an object he can

own, and the more she rejects him, the more enamored he becomes of her,

until his heart breaks. The pathos is underscored by the obvious

intelligence of Madison's Agnes - an intelligence that Arnolphe is

blind to. The production's reflective tone supersedes Michel's very

stylized, choreographic staging (this company's trademark). The ennui

is further supported by a similarly low-key portrayal by David E. Frank

as Arnolphe's blithe friend and confidante, Chrysalde. In In fact, when

lisping, idiot servants (Cynthia Mance and Ken Rudnicki) keep running

in circles and crashing into each other, Michel's one attempt at

Commedia physicality is at odds with the production rather than a

complement to it. Company costumer Josephine Poinsot (surprising she

doesn't work more) provides luscious period vestments and gowns, and

Duncombe's delightful production design, includes a gurgling fountain,

a tub of white roses, and abstract hints of some elegant, Parisian

court. (SLM) Garage, 1340½Fourth Street (alley entrance); Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 5:30 p.m.; through May 31. (310) 319-9939.

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW This staging of Shakespeare's curiously

misogynist comedy seems more concerned with mounting a handsome

production than a cohesive one. Jack Stehlin's direction takes each

scene individually, some playing up the humor into Three

Stoogesstyle slapstick, while others burn sexual heat

underneath red lighting. The cast turns out fine performances, each

with their own tone; those who choose naturalism fare best. (AN).

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

thru April 26. (310) 477-2055.

TUNA DOES VEGAS Texan townsfolk head to Sin City in Jaston Williams,

Joe Sears and Ed Howard's fourth installment of their "Greater Tuna"

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

Blvd., La Mirada; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 &

8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 3. (562) 944-9801.

GO THE WAR CYCLE: SURVIVED Playwright Tom

Burmester's powerful drama, the second installment of his "war cycle"

about the Iraqi War, mostly reigns in any implied disapproval for

America's Misbegotten 21st Century Foreign Adventure to focus on more

universal themes of family grief. It's been about a year since U.S.

soldier Mike Harper was killed during an Iraqi ambush, and the dead

man's family is still coping - or, more accurately, not coping - with

their sorrow. Dad Sam (James W. Sudik) is holed away in his cellar,

designing an annex to the family home for Sophia (Melissa Collins), the

dead boy's shattered widow, to live in, even though the idea flatly

appalls her. Meanwhile, mom Lilith (a nicely brittle Dee Amerio Sudik)

engages in a fierce and totally irrelevant feud with Sophia about what

to do with the dead soldier's ashes. Into this already semi-toxic

atmosphere unexpectedly comes Sgt. Taylor (Jonathan Redding), a former

war buddy of Mike's, bringing tragic details of his pal's death which

shake up the family even more. Burmester's drama, co-directed with

Danika Sudik, displays unusually skill at articulating a family's shaky

façade of icy normalcy, as it gives way to rage and despair. Although

the piece sometimes falls prey to some stock thematic tropes of the

"War Story Genre" (the work occasionally feels as though the playwright

wants to be writing about the Vietnam War, a very different military

action), the emotions still ring true. Collins' Sophia, bewildered by

sadness even as she makes tentative gestures at moving on, is

particularly compelling - as is Redding, offering a complex, disturbing

turn as the war buddy. (PB) Powerhouse Theater, 3112 2nd Street, Santa

Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through April 25. (800) 595-4849. A Los

Angeles Theater Ensemble production.

THEATER SPECIAL EVENTS

CIRCLE X FREE READING SERIES Full schedule at

www.circlextheatre.org. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Wed.,

8 p.m.; thru May 27. (323) 463-3900.

DAVID COPPERFIELD: AN INTIMATE EVENING OF GRAND ILLUSION The smoove

daddy of magic's tricks and treats. Long Beach Terrace Theater, 300 E.

Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Mon., April 27, 5:30 & 8:30 p.m.. (800)

745-3000.

DEBBIE REYNOLDS: AN EVENING OF MUSIC AND COMEDY . El Portal Theatre,

5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens April 30; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Wed., May 6, 2 p.m.; thru May 10. (866) 811-4111.

EAST WEST PLAYERS VISIONARY AWARDS Honoring filmmaker Jessica Yu and

dance troupe Quest Crew, plus a performance by Filipina singer Lea

Salonga. Hilton Universal City, 555 Universal Hollywood Dr., Universal

City; Mon., April 27, 7 p.m.. (818) 506-2500.

GO FAMILY PLANNING In a remount of Julia Edwards'

examination of fertility treatments, Chalk Repertory Theatre stages the

production in four different private homes during its run. In a

well-appointed Sherman Oaks dwelling, Olivia (Alina Phelan) comes home

from work, hormone addled and ready to conceive with her husband Hamish

(David Heckel). To Olivia's chagrin, Hamish's childhood buddy Rosen

(David Ari) and his pre-med, teenybopper girlfriend Jilly (Elia

Saldana) have dropped in during their cross-country road trip. As if

getting rid of them to take advantage of Olivia's ovulation window

wasn't awkward enough, Hamish's clingy mother Greta (Danielle Kennedy)

drops by as well. What ensues is a raw and emotional whirlwind of

resentment, shame and angst, culminating in a waterfall of bile and

vitriol as one secret after another is dredged to the surface,

reminiscent in many ways of Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The

intimate setting, slightly disconcerting at first, provides a surreal

hybrid between the close-ups of film and the living, breathing

tangibility of theatre. director Larissa Kokernot masterfully

manipulates the elements of this environment, such as having the

audience move between the living room and the kitchen for different

scenes, and brings out stellar performances from the cast who adjust

admirably to the proximity of the audience. For those tired of the

stodgy proscenium, this production provides a wonderful respite as well

as a reminder of the voyeuristic thrill of live theatre. (MK) Private

homes around Los Angeles (call for locations); Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

7 p.m.; through April 26. (800) 838-3006. BrownPaperTickets.com.

L.A. STREET SCENES 3: EVERYONE HAS A STORY Tales from a Los Angeles

emergency room, based on actual events. Edgemar Center for the Arts,

2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Thurs., April 30, 6:30 p.m.,

www.createnow.org. (310) 392-7327.

THE SQUEEZE-BOX SWAMI SHOW Zen Buddhist accordion player Michael

Attie leads an evening of "Dharma Polkas, Samadhi Waltzes and Headless

Tangos.". Subud Building, 5828 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sun., April 26, 7

p.m.. (323) 932-8418.

STANDARD MEN Male vocalists perform standards from the Great

American Song Book. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.,

Sierra Madre; Sun., April 26, 2 p.m.. (626) 256-3809.

TINY VAUDEVILLE 826LA hosts this once-a-month variety show

benefiting children's writing and tutoring programs. The Echoplex, 1154

Glendale Blvd., L.A.; Last Monday of every month, 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec.

28, www.826la.org/store-tickets/. (323) 413-8200.

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