Stage Raw: Titus Redux

Stage Raw: Titus Redux

Theater FEATURE on Neighbors, at the Matrix

NEW REVIEW GO TITUS REDUX

Stage Raw: Titus Redux

Photo courtesy of Circus Theatricals


Military hero Titus (Jack Stehlin) radiantly returns to Washington DC from the Middle East wars to a grand welcome by the public and his family, but a serious case of PTSD sets in to distort and ultimately obliterate his reality. As his mind descends, his beautiful wife Tamara (Brenda Strong) becomes an adulterous devil, her two sons (Dash Pepin and Vincent Cardinale) are transformed into murderous monsters who rape and maim his precious daughter Lavinia (Margeaux J . London), and his mild-mannered neighbor (John Farmanesh-Bocca) transforms into his mortal enemy. The story's pieces are mostly shaped from fragments of Shakespeare's tragedy - but the text quickly jumps from the original Elizabethan verse to contemporary prose, the staging leaps from staid classical poses to violent choreography to Twyla Tharpe style pop-dance sequences to big screen film images. Each of the elements under Farmanesh-Bocca's often wild direction offers vividly exciting moments, but the event doesn't congeal. There are filmed pieces that are given too much weight, overwhelming the sections of live movement. Still the talents of seven fine performers are glorious, particularly Stehlin's powerful portrayal of pride crumbling into madness. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 11. (213) 628-2772. (Tom Provenzano)

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NEW THEATER REVIEWS (scheduled for publication September 2, 2010)

NEW REVIEW EAT THE RUNT

Stage Raw: Titus Redux

Photo by Darrett Sanders

Sometimes a good concept, a canny script and talented performers add up to less than one hopes for. Directed by Tom Beyer, playwright Avery Crozier's farce starts with a museum job applicant name Merritt who employs sex, empathy and blackmail to manipulate his/her way into a job. "His/her" refers to the show's roles being assigned by the audience at the top of the evening, from a pool of actors (each of whom has learned every part) of mixed gender and ethnicity. The night I attended, Merritt was played by a Caucasian woman (Krista Conti). By the end of Act 1, the character has successfully navigated a treacherous interview process, only to be thwarted when a competitor, claiming to be the real Merritt, appears - and a new merry-go-round of manipulation begins. What is most engaging is the piece's biting portrayal of the games people play to secure and/or defend their turf. As to the role shuffling, the point is to demonstrate how gender and ethnicity affect the particulars - but not the substance - of power politics - and to showcase the versatile performers who can carry this exercise off, as this ensemble can (special kudos to alternate Cat Davis and Joshua Wolfe Coleman). The drawback to this setup is its tendency to be roll into glib sketch comedy, and to limit each performer's opportunity to bring a richer dimension to the satire. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; Tues.-Thurs.; thru Sept. 9. (323) 856-8611. (Deborah Klugman)

NEW REVIEW GO JEWTOPIA

Stage Raw: Titus Redux

Photo by Ed Krieger

It's been a little over seven years since the long-running original comedy was last seen in the city of the angels. This revival is far more compact, less jaunty, and slightly more cerebral. Nonetheless, the show is even funnier. It starts when childhood buddies Chris O'Connell and Adam Lipschitz (Conor Dubin and Adam Korson), happen across each other at a party for Jewish singles. Chris, a catholic, says that he wants to marry a Jew so he "never has to make another decision," while the socially inept Adam is on the scene only to please his nagging mother, who wants him to find a nice Jewish girl. So the guys make a pact: Chris will show Adam the finer points of picking up women, if Adam will reciprocate by showing Chris the particulars of being Jewish. It's a scenario fully charged with comedic possibilities, and writer-director Bryan Fogel mines it for all its subterranean treasures -- taking aim at cultural stereotypes, customs, P.C. junkies. Korson and Dubin have magnetic chemistry and formidable skills. Rounding out a splendid cast are Thea Brooks, Bart Braverman Cheryl David, Mark Sande and Cheryl Daro. Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat. 3 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (800) 595-4849.(Lovell Estell III)

NEW REVIEW GO LAST FARE

Stage Raw: Titus Redux

Dominic Hoffman in Last Fare

While playing a reverend presiding over a funeral, Dominic Hoffman introduces us to "three C's" that have nothing to do with gemstones: clarity, closure, and the circle of life. These concepts become the warp and weft of the story Hoffman weaves about a man who has died a mysterious death, and another who is searching for clues to the first man's demise. In his search, the second man (represented by the audience) meets a host of characters including an expat British cabbie, a resident of a crack house who's contemplating jumping from the roof, a Beverly Hills call girl, a gay dancer in his West Hollywood studio, and a landlord who fastidiously trims his rosebushes. Each of Hoffman's representations of these diverse personae is distinct and memorable, but some of the funniest lines come from the roof-dwelling man's riffs on race and stereotypes. He is mad about a lot of things, but he doesn't "call it anger." To him it's just "a logical response to a fucked up situation." Similarly, the response of each character to his or her respective situation is portrayed with empathy and humor by Hoffman, who also wrote the piece and whose expressions and perfectly placed pauses milk its comedic potential to the fullest. And while the details surrounding the man's death become blurred as the show goes on, its examination of human relations becomes sharper. The Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 5. (800) 838-3006. brownpapertickets.com/event/121664 (Mayank Keshaviah)

NEW REVIEW A LIFE OF EASE

Stage Raw: Titus Redux

Photo by Tom Burrus

Philip William Brock's play tells the bizarre tale of a man trapped and obsessed with the past, and with his grandmother. Momma Lo (Nicola T. Hersh), who is trapped in it. Momma Lo has two grandsons: June Bug (Dylan Maddalena) is about to marry and move north, while priggish Yale (Richard Michael Knolla) lives in her garage. He hates all things modern, passionately loathes the new shopping center which is going up across the road, and cherishes memories of the movie Brigadoon. Meanwhile, Momma is lost in memories of her younger self, Lorraine (Jordana Berlin), who went boating on the river with her fiancé Louis (Maddalena), only to have him maroon her on an island as punishment for refusing him premarital sex. While dwelling on that memory, Momma Lo suffers a stroke, which wipes out later memories and makes her believe that she's still in her twenties. Yale becomes entangled in Momma's fantasies, slipping the bonds of sanity, and falling in love with her younger self. This makes for some effective imagery, but stretches credibility. Director Amanda Weier and her able cast handle the material with sensitivity, but their efforts are thwarted by the murkiness of the later scenes. Open Fist Theatre Company, 6209 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood. Call theatre for variable schedule, through September 18. (323) 882-5912 or openfist.org (Neal Weaver)

GO NEIGHBORS

Stage Raw: Titus Redux

Photo by I.C. Rapoport

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' story of a family of rowdy actors who move next door to an upwardly mobile academic. Directed by Nataki Garrett., $25. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (323) 852-1445. See Theater feature on Wednesday.

NEW REVIEW GO TITUS REDUX

Stage Raw: Titus Redux

Photo courtesy of Circus Theatricals


Military hero Titus (Jack Stehlin) radiantly returns to

Washington DC from the Middle East wars to a grand welcome by the

public and his family, but a serious case of PTSD sets in to distort

and ultimately obliterate his reality. As his mind descends, his

beautiful wife Tamara (Brenda Strong) becomes an adulterous devil, her

two sons (Dash Pepin and Vincent Cardinale) are transformed into

murderous monsters who rape and maim his precious daughter Lavinia

(Margeaux J . London), and his mild-mannered neighbor (John

Farmanesh-Bocca) transforms into his mortal enemy. The story's pieces

are mostly shaped from fragments of Shakespeare's tragedy - but the

text quickly jumps from the original Elizabethan verse to contemporary

prose, the staging leaps from staid classical poses to violent

choreography to Twyla Tharpe style pop-dance sequences to big screen

film images. Each of the elements under Farmanesh-Bocca's often wild

direction offers vividly exciting moments, but the event doesn't

congeal. There are filmed pieces that are given too much weight,

overwhelming the sections of live movement. Still the talents of seven

fine performers are glorious, particularly Stehlin's powerful portrayal

of pride crumbling into madness. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington

Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 11. (213) 628-2772.

(Tom Provenzano)

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