MORE

Stage Raw: Uma-Care

Stage Raw: Uma-Care

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS FOR April 29 - May 5, 2011


PHOTOS on left are from Cabaret, and Prisoner of Second Avenue. Courtesy of DOMA Theatre Company and the El Portal Theatre, respectively

Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III,

Rebecca Haithcoat, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Amy Lyons, Steven

Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, and Neal

Weaver. These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following

cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller

Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller

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

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

OPENING THIS WEEK

THE ANDREW BROTHERS Roger Bean's South Pacific USO show, featuring a trio of cross-dressing stage hands belting out wartime hits like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" and "Mairzy Doats." Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 15. Norris Center for the Performing Arts, 27570 Crossfield Drive, Palos Verdes Peninsula, (310) 544-0403, norristheatre.org.

CAT'S CRADLE Leslie Sands' murder mystery set in the English village of Waverton Magna. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through June 4. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

CHAPTER TWO Neil Simons comedy, part of the JCC's Celebrity Staged Play Reading Series. Sun., May 1, 2 p.m., (323) 556-5225. Westside JCC, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A., westsidejcc.org.

DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD OF OZ Steve and Kathy Hotchner's interactive kids musical based on the L. Frank Baum story. Presented by June Chandler's Fairy Tale Theatre. Starting April 30, Sat., April 30, 2:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through June 4. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

DRIVE Playwrights 6 and Open Fist Theatre Company present Laura Black's world premiere about the aftermath of a car crash. Starting May 4, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 8. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.

EL PLACER DE NUESTRA LENGUA: Spanish-language spectacle incorporating mestizo love poems. Created, written and directed by Ofelia Medina. (In Spanish with English supertitles.). Sat., April 30, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 1, 2 & 8 p.m. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.

ENTROPY GENERAL Alive Theatre presents Ryan McClary's world-premiere "traumedy." Fri., April 29, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 30, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 14, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 28, 8 p.m., alivetheatre.org. The MADhouse, 624 Pacific Ave., Long Beach.

FAT BITCH! One-woman show about the "fat and sassy" black woman stereotype, by Erica Watson. Fri., April 29, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 30, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 1, 8 p.m., colum.edu/erica. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 655-7679, greenwayarts.org.

FERNANDO RICHARDON'S TREACHEROUS BRAIN Playwrights 6 and Open Fist Theatre Company present Monica Trasandes's world premiere about the unexpected effects of a man's brain surgery. Starting May 5, Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 9. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.

14TH ANNUAL PACIFIC PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL Readings of new works by Lauren Gunderson, Itamar Moses, Steven Drukman, Adam Gwon, Meg Miroshnik, Octavio Solis, Catherine Trieschmann and Sharr White. April 29-May 1. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555, scr.org.


THE GOOD BOY Michael Bonnabel shares stories of his life growing up with deaf parents in sign, speech and song. Starting April 30, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 22. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.

HOMER'S ILIAD Daylong marathon reading of the Greek classic. Sat., April 30, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, (310) 440-7300, getty.edu.

HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY AND NEVER BE FOUND Fin Kennedy's story of a young executive desperate for a new life, inspired by the book by Doug Richmond. Starting April 30, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 29. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, (626) 683-6883, bostoncourt.org.

THE MALCONTENT The Antaeus Company presents John Marston's Jacobean stage play. Starting May 5, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through June 19. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 762-2998, deafwest.org.

THE POOL OF BETHESDA California Repertory Company presents Allan Cubitt's tale of a post-op surgeon experiencing hallucinations of artist William Hogarth. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 14, (562) 985-5526, calrep.org. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, queenmary.com.

PUSH PLAY Los Angeles Rock Opera Company presents "A Quick One While He's Away," "Perseus at the Oki Dog," "15 Minutes of shAme" and "More Alive Than Dead." Fri., April 29, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., April 30, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., May 1, 7:30 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459, highwaysperformance.org.

SAND IN THE AIR Brian Raine's story of a doctor in a remote Texas border town accused of sexual improprieties. Starting April 30, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 28. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-7519, morgan-wixson.org.

THE SCENE Theresa Rebeck's comedy about a naive newcomer to Manhattan's showbiz scene. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May 22, brownpapertickets.com/event/170974. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, (310) 589-1998.

THREE SISTERS OR PERESTROIKA Pavel Cerny's adaptation of the 1901 play by Anton Chekhov. Starting May 1, Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 12, (866) 811-4111, theatermania.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

TWELFTH NIGHT Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identity. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 8. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., (323) 525-0661, attictheatre.org.

THE UNREQUITED (BETWEEN TWO WORLDS) Cornerstone Theater Company presents Lynn Manning's world premiere, based on S. Ansky's The Dybbuk, set in Watts during the Great Depression. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., May 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 18, 8 p.m. Continues through May 22, (213) 613-1700 x113, CornerstoneTheater.org. Youth Opportunities High School, Mafundi Auditorium, 1827 E. 103rd St., L.A..

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

THE ALL NIGHT STRUT Steeped in nostalgia, this mild evening of musical entertainment ushers us through the Great Depression, World War II and the postwar boom with its crowd-pleasing selection of popular tunes. Conceived by Fran Charnas, with musical direction from Dean Mora, the show features a trio of musicians and a quartet of singer-dancers who warble their way through a daisy chain of timeless songs from the 1930s and '40s. Dolled up in cute retro fashions (costumes by Sharon McGunigle), the four singers (Michael Dotson, Jayme Lake, Scotch Ellis Loring and Jennifer Shelton) embark with "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and glide their way through classic songs of those decades, concluding Act 1 with a medley of World War II hits. Competently backing them up, alongside Mora on piano, are Jim Garafalo on double bass and Ray Frisby on drums. The four-part harmonies are stronger than the solos, though the women do better in the lower register. It's too bad "Minnie the Moocher" is the second song of the night, as it might have supported some audience participation (call-and-response) if placed later in the evening once the crowd was warmed up. Nevertheless, the cast swings with a relaxed ease from one toe-tapping song to the next during this snappy, feel-good show. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 1. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, (818) 558-7000, colonytheatre.org.

The Andrews Brothers: Roger Bean's South Pacific USO show, featuring a trio of cross-dressing stage hands belting out wartime hits like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" and "Mairzy Doats." Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 15. Norris Center for the Performing Arts, 27570 Crossfield Drive, Palos Verdes Peninsula, (310) 544-0403, norristheatre.org.

BOOMERMANIA Debbie Kasper and Pat Sierchio's lively musical revue about baby boomers is much like the boomer culture itself -- fluffy and pleasant, but also somewhat sad. The show purports to be a lighthearted gambol down pop-culture memory lane, from the 1950s through the '90s, with the road of boomer excess ultimately leading to a palace of wisdom furnished with Sugar Pops, Mr. Spock, Saturday Night Fever and the Summer of Love. The decades roll by, depicted in a series of quirky skits and punctuated by renditions of rock songs whose lyrics parody the absurdities of eras past. Act 1 is fluff itself: In "Sugar Pops, Captain Crunch," a group of 1950s teens croon their affection for newly invented sugar cereals to the tune of "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch." Later, a dazed married couple warble "Talking 'Bout My Television," a song depicting near-hypnotized enchantment with their brand-new TV (sung to the tune of "The Beat Goes On"). However, when Act 2 moves into the later decades, Kasper and Sierchio's satire takes on a more melancholy tone, particularly during a sequence at a 10-year high school reunion, in which a few adult boomers come to grips with boomer shock: They're not as special as they thought they were. The show's cast consists of strikingly youthful performers who appear too young even for their first legal cocktail, let alone speedballs at Studio 54. Yet, thanks to Mary Ekler's tightly focused musical direction, their powerful voices evoke far richer emotions than the material they're often asked to sing. While many of the musical skits are crisply performed, the narrative material often falls flat, with frequent allusions to other boomer-dated shows like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hair only pointing out those musicals' far more inventive scores. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 15, (866) 811-4111, boomermaniathemusical.com. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, elportaltheatre.com.

BURN THE FLOOR The international ballroom sensation dances the Cha-Cha, the Rumba, the Viennese Waltz, the Tango, the Samba, the Mambo, and many more. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through May 8. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., (213) 365-3500, broadwayla.org.

GO BURN THIS Lanford Wilson was poetic even in his passing. The playwright, who premiered Burn This at the Mark Taper Forum 24 years ago, passed away on March 23, 2011, the night the Taper began previews of its first revival production of the play. Even the play's premise feels eerily symbolic: Shaken by the unexpected death of their friend Robbie, three friends find themselves confronting their paralyzed lives. Anna, consumed by her career as a dancer, struggles to create an exciting personal life, but chooses a safe lover in Burton. Wilson introduces an unlikely savior: Robbie's runaway train wreck of a brother, Pale. Crashing wildly into Anna's loft after an all-nighter, Adam Rothenberg's Pale is the hot, pounding heart of this production: As the radiator hisses on, he tells Anna, "I deliver water. I put out fires... but sometimes you just let it burn." Clutching at his heart, which is "fucking killing" him, and continuing on a coke-fueled rant that ranges from trash-talking the neighborhood to shedding tears over his brother's death, Pale finishes his first scene with a seduction so sexy that he's clearly throwing wood, not water, on this fire. Brooks Ashmanskas, as Anna's gay roommate Larry, is flamboyantly funny but still fleshes the character beyond campiness. Ken Barnett's Burton is purposefully boring. Zabryna Guevara's Anna, with her canned vocal inflections and forced emotion, is the stiffest of the cast. A special nod to Ralph Funicello's set, whose vast, underused space perfectly suits the characters' stunted lives. Coursing with adrenaline, Burn This spurs you as if a firecracker nearly went off in your hand. Live, Wilson shouts, NOW. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Sundays, 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through May 1. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A., (213) 628-2772.

THE CHAIRS Eugene Ionesco's slice of absurdity and futility receives a faithful staging at A Noise Within. Over the course of this 80-minute, one-act play, an aging couple drags out dozens of decrepit chairs to accommodate a crowd of distinguished guests -- who prove imaginary. Old regrets surface from the depths of their memories, and the Old Man lapses into melancholy and grief when recalling the loss of his mother. Company members Deborah Strang and Geoff Elliott (directed by ANW Artistic Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott) seldom evoke amusement, even when lewdly flirting with their invisible visitors. A gloomy mist pervades a set of dingy, peeling gray walls. Stephen W. Gifford's set and prop design and Ken Booth's lighting suggest a postapocalyptic setting (supported by a single line in the play) and the sense they are isolated in a circular building surrounded by water. Costume designer Angela Balogh Calin clothes the two leads in layers of rags and ratty furs, once sumptuous, now shabby. Ionesco's fixation with solitude, nothingness and the insignificance of human existence results in a stark experience. I prefer theater -- even absurdist comedies about the end of the world -- to come with at least some levity and relief from the obvious. (Pauline Adamek). Fri., April 29, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 30, 2 & 8 p.m.; Wed., May 11, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 12, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 15, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thu., May 19, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 2 & 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 240-0910, anoisewithin.org.

GO THE COMEDY OF ERRORS A strongman, a ventriloquist, three showgirls and a mimic with 1,000 voices make up just half of the Burlesque on Brand troupe, which enters, grandstands and immediately plunges into Shakespeare's shortest and most slapstick comedy about two pairs of long-lost twins crisscrossing in Ephesus. Here, servant Dromio (Jerry Kernion) wears a plaid toga, argyle socks and saddle shoes. (The four credited costumers have done fantastic work.) When Dromio vents to hero Antipholous (Bruce Turk) that the chubby kitchen wench (Gibby Brand) who claims she's his betrothed "is spherical, like a globe -- I could find out countries in her," their banter smacks of Abbott and Costello. Director Michael Michetti's dynamite ensemble is held together by Turk's leading man, who, like his Errol Flynn mustache and the production itself, is playful and self-mocking, but never ironic. Michetti inventively turns bereft father Egeon's (Michael Stone Forrest) tale of how he lost his four sons -- the longest speech in Shakespeare's canon -- into a silent black-and-white film, but the director's not above showing a pie in the face. And he even gets laughs for Adriana (Abby Craden) and Luciana (Annie Abrams) in their usually thankless roles. In the first few scenes, the play threatens to become a musical, but once past the momentary misstep of two musical numbers, the production settles into the most droll and deft staging of The Comedy of Errors I've seen in a decade. (Amy Nicholson). Sun., May 1, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thu., May 5, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 6, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 14, 2 & 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 240-0910, anoisewithin.org.

NEW REVIEW GO COMPLETENESS

Stage Raw: Uma-Care

Photo by Ben Horak

Einstein

once said, "Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling

in love." But perhaps computer science and microbiology can be. At least

according to Itamar Moses, whose latest world premiere explores the

probability of two graduate students heuristically finding love. Elliot

(Karl Miller) and Molly (Mandy Siegfried) bump into each other in the

computer lab, only to discover that their departments are but a floor

apart and their temperaments even closer. Elliot offers his algorithmic

skills to help Molly with her experiments on protein interactions, and

before long a mathematical solution to a biological problem creates a

whole lot of chemistry. Of course the bug in the software is that Elliot

has coincidentally just broken up with fellow CS grad student Lauren

(Brooke Bloom), while Molly hasn't quite ended things with biology

professor Don (Johnathan McClain). Hurt feelings of exes aside,

cross-pollination may be the key to Elliot and Molly finally finding

love ... until their logical sides begin to iteratively analyze what

exactly they have together. While the plot initially seems destined for Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

territory, it quickly and surprisingly veers away, back and away once

more as Moses plays to and and subverts such stereotypes. In doing so,

he strikes a fine balance between geeking out with the science and

remaining dramatically compelling. Director Pam MacKinnon expertly

maintains that balance by ensuring the spot-on comic timing of the

actors, who navigate uncomfortable emotional exchanges in refreshingly

hilarious ways. Even the costume and set changes are beautifully

orchestrated, the latter courtesy of Christopher Barreca's metallic

matrix, whose magically mechanized movements bring to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey.

South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa; Tues.-Sun.,

7:45 p.m., Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; some variations, call for schedule; thru

May 8. (714) 708-5555, scr.org. (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN If you think Los Angeles is an unkind city, you should try Inishmaan, the seemingly quaint and picturesque Irish village setting of Martin McDonagh's compelling drama. There, the villagers' otherwise adorable eccentricities have abraded on each other to the point of sparking near-psychotic frustration. By rights, the play should be a sentimental tale, but McDonagh's ferocious writing artfully skewers expectations of stereotypes, instead crafting a character-driven toxic dance of hope and despair. In this tiny island town, circa 1934, young orphan Crippled Billy (Tadhg Murphy) has been raised by two spinster "aunties" (Dearbhla Molloy and Ingrid Craigie), following his parents' tragic death at sea years ago. Within his claustrophobic and incredibly impoverished community, Crippled Billy's dreams have not gone much further than the hope of a kiss from bad-tempered (and possibly psychotic) town floozy Slippy Helen (Clare Dunne), the Egg Man's assistant. However, when Hollywood moviemakers arrive on a nearby island to make a film about the "real" Ireland, Crippled Billy pulls out the stops to become a star -- though the results of his scheme take an unexpectedly tragic turn. McDonagh's gorgeously lyrical dialogue is full of one-liners, quirky wit and biting irony, while also capturing the understated sorrow of people who believe life is nothing but suffering punctuated by loss. Like the writing, director Garry Hynes' taut, often explosive yet intimate staging boasts both impeccable comic timing and heartrending pathos -- often within a few seconds of each other. Galway's Druid Theatre Company cast is extraordinary, crafting an ensemble of small-village archetypes who appear lovable at first but whose seething undercurrents of spite and malice become all too evident. Murphy offers a sweet and idealistic turn as Crippled Billy, but the supporting figures are startlingly multidimensional as well, from Craigie's tough Aunt Kate to Dunne's abjectly terrifying Helen, and including Dermot Crowley in a hilarious, towering turn as the town's reprehensible gossip. A Druid Theatre Company and Center Theatre Group presentation. (Paul Birchall). Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 6:30 p.m. Continues through May 1, $20-$45. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (213) 628-2772.

EL PLACER DE NUESTRA LENGUA Spanish-language spectacle incorporating mestizo love poems. Created, written and directed by Ofelia Medina. (In Spanish with English supertitles.). Sat., April 30, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 1, 2 & 8 p.m. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.

THE ESCORT Jane Anderson's new play comes in a sleekly performed and perhaps too sleekly directed drama with scintillating ideas about the sex trade in our culture. The work depicts the sex trade as yet another arena in which we give up our selves in the barter for comforting fantasies of power and control, humility and humiliation. The play is on the road to a destination that hasn't yet been discovered. Some of this has to do with Anderson's expository writing style, and some with director Lisa Peterson's punching scene transitions that obscure some reflective essences in Anderson's writing. Some with lapses of credibility and some with the play's gratuitous reliance on sentimentality. The story focuses on two women whose lives intersect -- an obstetrician named Rhona (Polly Draper) and her patient, the high-end prostitute Charlotte (the excellent Maggie Siff). Rhona is trying to co-rear her 13-year-old son (Gabriel Sunday) with her urologist ex, Howard (James Eckhouse), and the play's crux lies in the evolving and devolving friendship between the two women, who both regard themselves as healers. Like Anderson's The Baby Dance -- which concerns the friction between an infertile, well-heeled urban couple and the dirt-poor birth mother of the child they've contracted for -- The Escort wears its social satire and insights into the class divide like a glittering jewel. It's at its best in scenes such as a contracted bedroom liaison between Charlotte and Howard, in which Anderson blisteringly satirizes Howard's postcoital arrogance and condescension in what he presumes to be a genial conversation with Charlotte. He cavalierly refers to other "whores," prompting her to fire back, defensively, that she's been with men who actually run the world, and "You're nobody." In this play's universe, he may not be able to run her world, but he can certainly ruin it, because of her somewhat inexplicable, sentimental interest in his and Rhona's son. That this presumptuous "nobody" should have such power over Charlotte's destiny is a potent view of social injustice. If only it were attached to more plausible dramaturgy. (Steven Leigh Morris). Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through May 8. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood, (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com.

14TH ANNUAL PACIFIC PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL Readings of new works by Lauren Gunderson, Itamar Moses, Steven Drukman, Adam Gwon, Meg Miroshnik, Octavio Solis, Catherine Trieschmann and Sharr White. April 29-May 1. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555, scr.org.

GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE Gershwin's life and legendary songbook, starring Hershey Felder. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through May 9. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY, pasadenaplayhouse.org.

God of Carnage: Yasmina Reza's 2006 play God of Carnage -- translated by Christopher Hampton and reuniting the 2009 Broadway cast (Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden) -- swirls around an argument between two children who never appear onstage. One, having been called a "snitch" by the other, answered by smashing his accuser in the face with a stick and knocking out two of his teeth. The play, however, doesn't so much explore the origins of loathing between people as it assumes them as a given and then merely reveals them. There's little paradox, just various forms of decorum that get slowly, systematically yanked away eviscerating its characters through primarily through mockery. It unfolds in the home of the child-victim's parents, Veronica and Michael (Harden and Gandolfini) -- depicted in Daryl A. Stone's set as a contemporary slab of domesticity. A cracked-stone-wall backdrop (all those fissures dividing what appears so solid), juxtaposed against art books stacked on the floor and tucked under coffee tables, signals a landing pad for liberal ideals. Yet that pad stands surrounded by a wash of red -- the raging fire of aggression that's been licking at, if not engulfing, the translucent skin of civilization for millennia. Veronica's husband, Michael, is a self-made wholesaler, a blue-collar fellow pressured by the play's circumstances to pretend he's far more tenderhearted than his temperament allows. After a few drinks, he'll reveal his true colors. Veronica and Michael are visited by the parents of the aggressor-child, Alan and Annette (Daniels and Davis). Alan is a high-powered lawyer who, we discern from his incessant cell phone conversations, represents big pharma. Alan's emotionally precarious wife, Annette, is into "wealth management" -- the wealth of her husband. It all starts out so reasonably. Nobody wants to go legal over a kids' squabble. That thin amiability becomes stretched by the consumption of too much alcohol, until it starts to tear. As the tensions among them rise, the initially agreed-upon premise that a problem child struck an innocent peer gets expanded to the theory that the abuser may have been justified because he'd been insulted. The rhythmic ebbs and flows of Matthew Warchus' direction of his perfect cast keep the play about as taut as can be imagined. But the comic-dramatic tension of who can gore whom is like watching a bullfight. It's sadism mixed with technique, and the bloody outcome isn't really in question. I found myself riveted for an hour or so, until the dramatic formula became formulaic. (Steven Leigh Morris). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through May 29. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A., (213) 628-2772, centertheatregroup.org.

THE GOOD BOY Michael Bonnabel shares stories of his life growing up with deaf parents in sign, speech and song. Starting April 30, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 22. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.

GO GOODBYE, LOUIE . . . HELLO The late playwright Allan Manings was blacklisted and forced to move to Canada. There, he worked on a horse farm till 1961, when he was able to return to Hollywood and forge a successful career in television. So it's not surprising that he should focus on the doings of the House Un-American Activities Committee in this, his final play. Actor-comedian Louis Berns, née Bernstein (Alan Freeman), has reached retirement years, and spends his days with his children, son Scott (Paul Denniston) and bossy but loving daughter, Aimee (Maria Kress), and his lifelong friend and fellow comic, Benjy Gordon (Steve Franken), with whom he plays a daily gin rummy game. For much of Act 1, the play seems to be a gentle, funny Jewish character comedy. But when Scott's journalist friend David (Roy Vongtama) sets out to write a profile of Louie, his research reveals that Louie was called to testify before HUAC in 1951, and named his old friend Benjy, resulting in Benjy's being blacklisted and the destruction of his career. When this information is revealed, catastrophe results. John Gallogly directs a fine cast in a richly nuanced production, with wonderful performances by Freeman and Franken as the two old actors. (Neal Weaver). theatrewest.org Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 8. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., (323) 851-7977, theatrewest.org.

HOMER'S ILIAD Daylong marathon reading of the Greek classic. Sat., April 30, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, (310) 440-7300, getty.edu.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Man-eating-plant musical, book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken. Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through May 1. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562) 944-9801.

LONESOME TRAVELER World premiere of James O'Neil's musical tour, from the backwoods of Appalachia to the nightclubs of New York, the 1920s to the '60s. Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through May 8. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura, (805) 667-2900.

NEW REVIEW GO THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE

Stage Raw: Uma-Care

Photo courtesy of El Portal Theatre

In

a poignant and peerless performance, Jason Alexander wrests timeless

relevance from Neil Simon's 1971 period comedy. Middle-aged Mel

(Alexander) and his loving and accommodating wife, Edna (Gina Hecht),

live in a Manhattan high-rise with paper-thin walls and faulty plumbing.

Mel is a kvetch without equal whose outrage at noisy neighbors, smelly

garbage, a defective air conditioner and various other urban ills

reaches full bombast after the couple's apartment is burgled of

everything -- even their liquor and their Valium. The situation turns

even more dire after Mel confesses to Edna that he's lost his job, and

his native excitability gives way to a full-fledged breakdown. Directed

by Glenn Casale -- with set, lighting and sound by Stephen Gifford,

Jared A. Sayeg and Philip G. Allen respectively -- this is a handsome

production of what is neither one of Simon's best nor wittiest scripts.

But from the moment the lights come up, Alexander is on, generating

laugh after laugh even as he mines the pathos behind his character's

ceaseless tirades -- like Jackie Gleason at his best. In Act 2, a family

powwow convened between Mel's three flaky sisters (Annie Korzen, Deedee

Rescher and Carol Ita White) and his brother, Harry (Ron Orbach),

detours the story back into the realm of shtick. While everyone is

entertaining, Orbach is excellent; as with Alexander's performance, his

blustery blowhard displays that combination of depth and timing that is

the mark of consummate skill. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd.,

N. Hlywd.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 & 7 p.m., Wed. & Sat., 2

p.m., Tues., May 3, 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 15. (818) 508-4200, elportaltheatre.com. (Deborah Klugman)


THE SCENE Theresa Rebeck's comedy about a naive newcomer to Manhattan's showbiz scene. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May 22, brownpapertickets.com/event/170974. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, (310) 589-1998.

SILENT SKY One of the cardinal sins in playwriting is allowing the audience to get too far ahead of the story. Any but the tautest of grips on the narrative leash will exact its toll in attenuated tension and let loose the dogs of boredom. So it is with playwright Lauren Gunderson's feminist-flavored rehabilitation of pre-World War I Harvard astronomer Henrietta Leavitt (Monette Magrath) in this harmless and anodyne commission by South Coast Rep, now playing on its main stage. In real life, Leavitt was one of Harvard astronomer Edward Charles Pickering's all-women "human computers" engaged in number-crunching drudgery while actual telescope time was reserved as a bastion of male privilege. The play presents her as a poet and frustrated dreamer whose determination to circumvent the unseen Pickering during her off-hours condemns her to spinsterhood but results in "Leavitt's Law," the critical astronomical yardstick that would enable later scientists to fix our place in the limitless expanse of the cosmos. Colette Kilroy and Amelia White lend fine support as the heroine's closet-suffragette computer cohorts, and Nick Toren is suitably spineless as the romantic interest who is both smitten by Henrietta's rebellious wit and threatened by her superior intellectual ability. Costumer David Kay Mickelsen contributes meticulous period detail to director Anne Justine D'Zmura's sleek production, while York Kennedy's lights and John Crawford's projections animate the evening firmament spinning above John Iacovelli's spare, rotating turntable set. All that moving spectacle can do little, however, to help the overly familiar text catch up to an audience left waiting at the final blackout for the work to add up to something greater than the sum of its wiki facts. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Sundays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through May 1. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555, scr.org.

Still Life: Workshop performance of Harry Clark's play with music. Produced by Latino Theater Company. Fri., April 29, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 30, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 6, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 7, 8 p.m. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW William Shakespeare's comedy, relocated to the American Wild West. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 28. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014, lbph.com.

TREASURE ISLAND The Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre presents Ken Ludwig's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's pirate tale. Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 5 p.m. Continues through May 1. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-2787, lagunaplayhouse.com.

THE UGLY DUCKLING Interactive kids' musical by Lloyd J. Schwartz and Adryan Russ. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through July 9, (818) 761-2203. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., theatrewest.org.

WAITING FOR GODOT Samuel Beckett's existentialist classic. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 1. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014, lbph.com.

GO A WEEKEND WITH PABLO PICASSO Sitting half-naked in a cardboard box painted to resemble a bathtub, Herbert Siguenza launches into an imagined weekend in the life of Pablo Picasso in a manner that seems entirely fitting: balls out. Siguenza ― a painter and impassioned fan of Picasso who's known for his work in the performance group Culture Clash ― bases his solo show on a collection of utterances by the mercurial, prolific co-founder of the Cubist movement, setting it in the artist's studio on the coast of France in 1957. Tasked with creating six paintings and three vases in less than three days, Picasso, at the age of 76, becomes a whirling dervish of work and wild philosophizing. Though the countless famous quotes (including many heavy-handed statements about love, war and politics) and the protagonist's streak of two dozen Eureka moments in 90 minutes sometimes lends an air of staginess to the work, getting to watch Siguenza paint, prowl the stage and lovingly channel the spirit of an eccentric icon more than makes up for the moments of inauthenticity. Scenic designer Giulio Cesare Perrone creates an art studio fit for a legend and Victoria Petrovich's projection design synchs perfectly with the boldness of Siguenza's performance. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 1. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.


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

ATTACK OF THE 50 FT SUNDAY Jordan Black directs the Groundlings Sunday Company. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700, groundlings.com.

BASH: LATTERDAY PLAYS Coeurage Theatre presents Neil Labute's Mormon tragedies. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 15, coeurage.org. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-8043, actorscircle.net.

GO THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT: 2050 Stories about dystopian societies often risk seeming contrived, but playwright Tania Wisbar's beautifully detailed and elegiac tale depicts a world that might believably exist, say, 100 years after a Nazi takeover. In the future, poverty and disease have been eliminated, but the world is instead organized on entirely practical lines, with your right to survive being decided by the number of "points" you earn every year. On the 75th birthday of family matriarch Teresa (Salome Jens), her devoted daughter Marsha (Elyssa Davalos) thinks she has collected enough points from her two sisters and family to allow Teresa to live another year. More than just being the emotional center of her clan, Teresa is one of the last living rebels who recalls life before the odious new order came to pass. Marsha's hopes are threatened when unexpected complications amp up the charge for Teresa's right to life. In director Jonathan Sanger's beautifully melancholy staging, what could be a mechanical exercise in high-concept plotting becomes a wistful tale of how easy it would be to purge memory of the past from the world. Sanger's smoothly executed production boasts many rich details: Set designer Kis Knekt's calculatedly sterile living room is replete with decorative video screens that show 1984-esque messages from the genially sinister bureaucrat (Jeffrey Doornbos) who oversees the family's doings. Knekt's set, in conjunction with composer Karen Martin's eerie incidental music, crafts a world that's just plain crazy. The ensemble work is just as assured. Apart from Jens' powerful turn as the ferociously nonconforming grandmother, Davalos' complex performance as Marsha is exceptional: Her character is seemingly an upbeat chirper, but her good mood is so clearly artificial, it seems as though she's always about to weep. Also engaging in supporting roles are Katrina Lenk, as Marsha's venomously selfish younger sister, and Demetrius Grosse, as a guilt-haunted security agent. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 22, (323) 960-7733, plays411.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A..

BLINK & YOU MIGHT MISS ME You've seen Larry Blum before ― in fact, I'd bet $20 bucks you've seen Blum on TV a dozen times. But unless you know who you're looking for, you might not have noticed him. When his one-man show about his career opens with footage of Meryl Streep's 2010 Golden Globes win and Blum struts out and asks, "Did you notice who took Meryl to the stage?" the audience does a double take. Blum is an on-camera talent escort, a hired gun who makes sure no star snaps a stiletto on her way to accept an award. Before that, he was a dancer, and earlier still he was a celebrity-obsessed gay Jewish teen in late '60s New York who lost his virginity to a sailor in an alley behind a Nestle truck. ("Every time I have a cup of cocoa, I still get hard," he reminisces.) Blum's good-humored, self-deprecating show has the patter of a dinner party guest who's told his stories a few too many times, and director Stan Zimmerman could get Blum's one-liners to sound more off-the-cuff. Still, Blum's got bite and it's lucky for him that among the many, many stars he dishes dirt about, at least half are dead or too old to bother calling a lawyer (Roseanne Barr, Raquel Welch and Dionne Warwick should stay away). Though in his youth he hoped to become famous, Blum doesn't paint himself as a has-been, never-was or will-be. He's proud to pay his rent by pursuing his dream ― and by being a shameless residual check hound who even joined Susan Lucci's fan club to make sure he made every nickel from taking Lucci's arm during her big Emmy win. (He elbowed her husband out of the way for the honor.) Blum's cascade of quick clips keeps multimedia operator Matthew Quinn busy as they stack up to build a scrapbook of the busiest actor you'd never recognize. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 27, (323) 960-7612, plays411.com/blink. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A., theatreasylum-la.com.

NEW REVIEW CABARET

Stage Raw: Uma-Care

Photo courtesy of DOMA Theatre Company

Damn

Broadway -- when they get it right, they get it really right. Sam

Mendes' 1998 revival of the musical Cabaret, which scooped up a slew of

awards for its raunchy reworking, featured Alan Cumming's now-famous

hypersexual turn as the M.C. The musical, which is set in Berlin on the

brink of the Nazis' rise to power, fixes its dark gaze on the dingy Kit

Kat Klub, where young English cabaret performer Sally Bowles meets Cliff

Bradshaw, a broke American novelist; the M.C.'s sardonic eye roves over

the action as it builds to its inevitable end. While director Marco

Gomez smartly tries to avoid comparisons by reverting to the original

version and employing cross-gender casting, Mendes' revival's riskiness

still looms large enough to make DOMA Theatre Company's latest

production feel underfed. Even so, a competent cast, Michael Mullen's

fantastically flashy costumes and the sheer strength of the musical

itself make for an agreeable evening. Renee Cohen, shouldering the

weight of the M.C., belts and struts with smirking panache; Caitlin Ary

(a dead ringer for January Jones), who's a little shallow acting-wise,

certainly digs deep enough to sing the role of Bowles. But, from

transforming the Klub girls into a flock of iridescent black swans to

outfitting Rory Alexander's Bradshaw in sharp suits that belie his

financial straits, Mullen's the big star of the production. And although

the young cast has a difficult time maintaining a balance between the

Klub's lurid, grinning delusion and the very real clouds quickly rolling

into Berlin, it's hard not to catch chills as the M.C. wishes you one

final, solemn Auf Wiedersehen. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 22. (323) 960-5773. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

GO CAUGHT In the aftermath of Proposition 8 passing in November 2008, one of the regrets of those who fought valiantly for gay marriage and against the proposition was that enough wasn't done to "normalize" gay couples. And while the events in David L. Ray's world-premiere play take place in July 2008, Caught furthers the cause by dramatizing one of those healthy relationships. In it, Angelenos Kenneth (Corey Brill) and Troy (Will Beinbrink) are on the eve of their nuptials, a ceremony that will be officiated by their friend Splenda (Micah McCain), who is ordained via the Internet. This blissful scene is interrupted by a visit from Kenneth's estranged sister, Darlene (Deborah Puette), who is very Southern and very Christian, as well as her daughter, Krystal (Amanda Kaschak). In the interludes between scenes, we also see Darlene's husband, T.J. (Richard Jenik), preaching to his conservative congregation in Georgia. Secrets, lies and surprising revelations fuel the drama. Director Nick DeGruccio deftly takes Ray's strong and likable characters from page to stage, sparingly playing up stereotypes for comedy without ever reducing the characters to them. Adding to the authenticity are Adam Flemming's delightfully detailed set and Katherine Hampton Noland's colorful couture. Adding to the emotional investment in the story is a talented cast; standouts include Puette, for her rich and intense portrayal of Darlene; McCain, for balancing divalike comedy with deep sincerity; and Kaschak, for combining fresh-faced innocence and a willfulness to create a very believable teenager. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 15, (800) 595-4849, CaughtThePlay.com. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A..

THE CHINESE MASSACRE (ANNOTATED) Circle X Theatre Co. presents Tom Jacobson's retelling of the lynching of 18 Chinese men in 1871 Los Angeles. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through May 28, circlextheatre.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A., (213) 368-9552.

CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS Curse of the Starving Class: Newly revised version of Sam Shepard's 1978 surreal comic melodrama about the end of the American Dream. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 4. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.

DEFENDIENDO AL CAVERNICOLA (DEFENDING THE CAVEMAN) In Spanish only. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through May 22. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A., (213) 382-8133, fridakahlotheater.org.

DRIVE Playwrights 6 and Open Fist Theatre Company present Laura Black's world premiere about the aftermath of a car crash. Starting May 4, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 8. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.

FAT BITCH! One-woman show about the "fat and sassy" black woman stereotype, by Erica Watson. Fri., April 29, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 30, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 1, 8 p.m., colum.edu/erica. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 655-7679, greenwayarts.org.

FERNANDO RICHARDON'S TREACHOROUS BRAIN Playwrights 6 and Open Fist Theatre Company present Monica Trasandes's world premiere about the unexpected effects of a man's brain surgery. Starting May 5, Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 9. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.

FIVE BY TENN One-Act Festival: Five short plays by Tennessee Williams. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 1. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 467-6688, theatre68.com.

GARDEN DISTRICT Chris Phillips' look inside the unseen lives of three Tennessee Williams characters, from A Streetcar Named Desire, Suddenly Last Summer and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Tue., May 3, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 4, 8 p.m.; Tue., May 10, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 11, 8 p.m. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com.

GAYS R US Erin Foley and her funny pals, gay and otherwise. First Thursday of every month, 8 p.m., $14. The Improv, 8162 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 651-2583.

GO GIRLS TALK Roger Kumble's new seriocomedy sets out to debunk that famous feminist promise that women can have it all -- the career, the family and their sanity. As lights go up on a beached Brooke Shields, a milk pump attached to each breast, Kumble softens up his audience with broad comic strokes and entertainment industry in-jokes. He even pokes fun at racism before settling in to a serious examination of four power moms in Brentwood, and the dilemmas they face. As mother of three Lori, Shields shows up in a pink hoodie and Uggs, but pretty soon sky-high wedge heels and hefty designer handbags take over the stage (costumes by Ann Closs-Farley). She slobs about the solid, trilevel set (design by Tom Buderwitz) as the other, more pretentious moms arrive. Meanwhile Lori's former writing partner, Claire (Constance Zimmer), wants to lure her back to the cutthroat world of TV with an irresistible opportunity -- a meeting with Oprah herself. But what about Lori's commitments to her eldest kid's preschool fundraiser? Eileen Galindo is underused as Lori's uncomprehending temp nanny. Andrea Bendewald is magnificent as alpha mom Jane, especially when she unleashes her vicious tongue, completely annihilating Scarlett (Nicole Paggi), the needy Southern mom who is trying so hard to be Jewish ("Holla for challa!"). But Jane gets her comeuppance, courtesy of Claire, a fearless non-mom. This play is full of squabbly little victories, some distasteful, some victorious. It concludes abruptly on a cliffhanger, but by then Kumble has well and truly made his point. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 7, (800) 595-4849, tix.com. Lee Strasberg Institute, Marilyn Monroe Theatre, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

THE GOLDEN GAYS John Patrick Trapper's homotastic comedy inspired by The Golden Girls. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 1, thegoldengays.com. Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., L.A..

HAMLET Shakespeare's tragedy set in modern times, presented by Player King Productions. Mondays, Tuesdays, Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through May 10, (310) 909-8629, brownpapertickets.com/event/166103. Belle Varado Studios/Stage 22, 2107 Bellevue Ave., L.A..

HIDDEN IN THIS PICTURE Aaron Sorkin's movie-making comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through May 15, plays411.com/hidden. Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A., (323) 874-1733, www.theactorsplaypen.com/.

HITCHCOCKED Improv inspired by the films of Alfred Hitchcock, directed by Patrick Bristow. Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 7, (323) 960-7612, plays411.com/hitchcocked. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A., theatreasylum-la.com.

A HOUSE NOT MEANT TO STAND Empty butterscotch wrappers scattered on a cheap coffee table, an afghan in shades of brown clutching a grubby couch, an old Christmas-themed popcorn tin catching one of the ceiling's countless leaks -- Misty Carlisle's prop design is so on-target, if she isn't from the South, she must have spent summers there. Yet her efforts, and Jeff McLaughlin's picture-perfect set, can't save the soul of this production of Tennessee Williams' tragicomedy. The premise is dyed-in-the-wool Williams: Hard-driving father Cornelius (Alan Blumenfeld) and his regressed-from-depression wife, Bella (Sandy Martin), arrive home from burying their gay son in Memphis. ("You encouraged him to design clothes [and] try 'em on," Cornelius berates his wife.) Their youngest, kinda sneaky, kinda sweet son (Daniel Billet) is home (after losing another job) with a similarly out-of-work girlfriend (Virginia Newcomb). The play, Williams' last, isn't his best; soliloquies directed at the audience weaken the action and disrupt the script's flow. But in not clearly revealing the kind of seminal Williams-esque conflict between a deep well of despair and the near-instinctual impulse to hide anything unpleasant, director Simon Levy has ignored the desperate sadness here, turning the play into a carnival of caricatures. Fortunately, Lisa Richards, a cougar before the term even existed, soft-pedals her approach as a nosy neighbor, and her scene near the end with Bella is the first in the production that intrigues. The real shame, in fact, is that Martin's performance as the mentally clouded yet still feisty Bella is stranded in this production. Tennessee Williams always saved his best for his women, and Martin more than does him justice. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 22, $25-$35; $18 students. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1525, fountaintheatre.com.

HOUSE OF THE RISING SON Ensemble Studio Theatre L.A. presents Tom Jacobson's Southern gothic romance. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 29, (323) 644-1929, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A..

GO I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER If the aim of naturalism in theater is the pitch-perfect rendering of reality, then Cameron Watson's urbane staging of Robert Anderson's 1968 drama scores. It revolves around an aging, ailing and cantankerous egotist named Tom (Philip Baker Hall) and Tom's beleaguered son, Gene (John Sloan). A widowed college professor, the soft-spoken Gene has always sought his father's love but has never received it. With Tom now battling dementia, Gene struggles between a mix of duty and a desperate need to bond, and his equally strong desire to establish a new life for himself in California, 3,000 miles away. Constructed as a memory play, Anderson's highly personal work sometimes teeters on the edge of melodrama but ultimately transcends its suburban WASP milieu and mid-20th century perspective with its themes involving fathers and sons, family and self. Hall, a performer whose intense dynamic can barely be contained within the production's small venue, dominates the stage, barking at those around him; his Tom has become a fierce and wounded human animal. Sloan performs impeccably in the less flashy role of the tongue-biting adult Gene is laboring to be; so does Anne Gee Byrd as Tom's gracious, long-suffering wife. As sister Alice, banished from the family for marrying a Jew, the terrific Dee Ann Newkirk metamorphoses from a tight-lipped secondary character into the plot's fiery catalyst. The various shifts in time and place are effectively accommodated by designer John Iacovelli's spare set, with its transparent scrim elaborated on by projection designer Christopher M. Allison's color-imbued drawings. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 22, 8 p.m. Continues through May 22, (310) 701-0788, NewAmericanTheatre.com. McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Pl., L.A., mccaddentheatre.com.

IN THE AGES OF THE EARTH A new performance by Mary Lynn Rajskub. Fridays, 11:30 p.m. Continues through April 30. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., L.A., (323) 851-2603, workingstage.com.

JUST IMAGINE Tim Piper's John Lennon impersonation, including performances of Beatles hits and Lennon's solo work. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 29, (323) 960-4442. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., www.thehayworth.com.

KEEP IT CLEAN COMEDY Hosted by JC Coccoli. Mondays, 10:30 p.m., Free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1739.

GO LA RAZON BLINDADA (THE ARMORED REASON) How does a prisoner survive without hope? Writer/director Aristides Vargas drew inspiration for this poignantly horrific black comedy from the experience of his brother, a political prisoner in Argentina during that country's military dictatorship. Confined in solitary, prisoners were permitted a brief respite on Sunday, when they could meet and talk, albeit while remaining seated and with their hands on the table. That setup provides the physical framework for this luminously surreal 80-minute one-act in which two incarcerated men come together to role-play -- one calling himself De La Mancha (Jesus Castanos Chima), the other Panza (Arturo Diaz de Sandy). The actors remain seated throughout, navigating across the stage on wooden chairs with wheels. Within these loosely assumed personae, the pair frolic through a hallucinatory landscape, clowning their way through speculations about madness, sanity, heroism and human bonding, and conjuring an elaborate fantasy of regency over an island that brilliantly mocks the nature of power. In the end, the aim of the game is survival -- not as rational beings, because reality would be too painful, but as madmen whose lunacy frees them from the shame of powerlessness. The performances are consummate and the staging, as eloquent as the text, features a videographed landscape over which their sunken shadows pass, and Faure's Elegie for Violoncello and Orchestra to underscore the pathos. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 25. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A., (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.org.

L.A. VIEWS IV Short Play Festival: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 1. Company of Angels Theater, 501 S. Spring St., L.A., (323) 883-1717.

LUST 'N RUST: THE TRAILER PARK MUSICAL These days, stories of plant closures as a result of corporate downsizing or outsourcing have become all too common in the news. Frank Haney, Carol Kimball and Dave Stratton choose to explore this economic phenomenon musically. In their piece, New Jersey executive Steve (Sal Cecere) is posted to southern Illinois to manage a plant for Agribig. Believing the move to be temporary, Steve rents a trailer in the Redbud Mobile Estates, where he falls for Connie (Joyanna Crouse), who has just split up with husband Duane (Derek Long). Also populating the trailer park are the comic duo of Buzz (Josh Evans) and Junior (Scott Dean); Buzz's lascivious wife, Tanya (Terra Taylor); social chair and gossip hub Red (Ward Edmondson); sassy beautician Latisha (Becky Birdsong); and general oddball Janette (Leann Donovan). Though the show's premise accurately reflects the zeitgeist, it suffers from one-dimensional characters, painfully presentational dialogue and contrived turns of events that sap the story of genuine drama. The music is pleasant with some nice harmonies, but the lyrics often are undercut by off-kilter rhyme schemes and too many syllables per beat. Director Thomas Colby lines up his actors to face the audience whenever a song is about to start, turning musical theater into country cabaret. Set designer Allan Jensen's "wood and hinges" motif plays well on a sign-festooned set that's both versatile and authentically detailed, but overall the show is too broadly drawn to take seriously as drama and too obvious to be consistently entertaining as comedy. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., lyrictheatrela.com.

MAGIC STRINGS Bob Baker's marionette variety revue, featuring puppet horses on a merry-go-round, an opera diva on roller skates, a "Day at the Circus," and an all-American grand finale. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A., (213) 250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.

MASSACRE (SING TO YOUR CHILDREN) At the start of Jose Rivera's mystical melodrama, the room goes black for 60 seconds of offstage screaming. Like the play that follows, it's a bold idea that can't resist going deadeningly over the top. Seven murderers -- four men, three women -- tumble into the room, covered in blood, clutching machetes and crowbars and pipes and knives, and vibrating with the rush of killing Joe, the tyrant who has spent five years terrorizing their small American town. But their chest bumps and self-congratulations quickly fade into the quiet fear of realizing that, sans scapegoat, they now have to think for themselves -- and worse, take ownership over whatever miseries befall them. (Surely they can't be any worse than Joe, who has raped the women, killed the children and slashed the population by a third.) This is a heightened world staged too casually by Richard Martinez, who plunks this gory metaphor in a suburban rec room and encourages his cast to pivot from slang to grand speechifying. It's as though the play and this production are so concerned with the big strokes that all the details are scrambled: The characters are inconsistent and their relationships murky. Minutes after one growls to another that they don't know each other and should keep it that way, a cheery five-year flashback to before the Reign of Joe makes the gang look as tight as the cast of Friends. And it's worth noting that only the men get the good speeches -- while they recant their painful stories, the ladies just give them massages. Underlying it all is: How culpable are we in our own captivity? Rivera burns with the need to demand an answer but douses his own flames. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 15, (323) 369-0571, urbantheatremovement.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, L.A..

MAXWELL STREET By virtue of its setting -- Chicago's South Side during the postwar blues boom -- Willard Manus' new play should brim with second-to-none music. Instead, the entire show plays out like a giant missed opportunity, a sloppily penned love letter to an erstwhile blues scene that included Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Memphis Minnie. Everything from the simplistic script to botched lighting cues to under-rehearsed, unsure actors lacking strong singing skills makes the production feel painfully amateurish. Snooks Lawson (Tony Davis) is an aging bluesman who decides to give the business one last shot. Teaming up with a young white harmonica player, Irwin Weisfeld (Greg Guardino), Snooks forms a band in which he is the only black member. Keeping his eye on the evil Lance Lennox (Jerry Katell), an A&R man who has burned Snooks in the past, Snooks makes great music but is accused of being a sellout to the white crowd. The predictable plot involves battles with drug addiction and alcohol abuse, race wars and misunderstandings that threaten to break up the band. Though there is a host of one-note performances (Davis plays a full-on caricature throughout, cackling and bemoaning life's cruelties without a genuine human emotion in sight), the show's most frustrating aspect stems from what remains unseen and unheard: great music. In its stead are clichéd lines about overcoming obstacles, compounded by the missed emotional connections between the characters. Immediately following the band's offstage appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, Lennox congratulates them for blowing Bob Dylan out of the water. From the small bits of singing sans instruments we see onstage, this praise seems preposterous. (Amy Lyons). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, noon. Continues through May 1. Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, 4305 Degnan Blvd., Ste. 101, L.A., (310) 330-0178.

MUTANT: OLIVE Katselas Theater Company presents Mitch Hara's one-man show. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 7. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills.

GO THE NEXT FAIRY TALE Writer-composer Brian Pugach uses a fractured fairy tale to deliver a message of tolerance and acceptance. Four Fairy Godmothers assemble, under the direction of their den mother/director Minerva (a formidable Gina Torrecilla), to create a new fairy tale. The Magic Mirror (campy and flouncy Charls Sedgwick Hall) announces that the hero of the new tale is to be Prince Copernicus (sweetly sappy Christopher Maikish), who doesn't believe in fighting: His weapons are smiles and hugs. When homophobic Minerva learns that Copernicus' true love is another male, Prince Helio (Patrick Gomez), she's appalled and determined to foil their match, lest the world's children be corrupted by a gay fairy tale. She assigns him Hazel (Rachel Genevieve), the most incompetent of the fairy godmothers, to ensure his failure and employs magic spells (including a poisoned apple) to stop him. Director Michael A. Shepperd stages Pugach's goofy musical with an engaging faux naivete, ably assisted by a lively ensemble and richly enhanced by Raffel Sarabia's whimsical fairy-tale costumes. (Neal Weaver). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 8. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com.

ORINOCO Bilingual Actors Repertory Theater Company presents Emilio Carballido's comedy. Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30, (323) 401-5139 or (323) 462-6203, bartcousa.com. Stages Theatre Center, 1540 N. McCadden Pl., L.A..

PLAY DATES Sam Wolfson's offbeat love story. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 1, (323) 960-7784, plays411.com/playdates. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

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). Fridays, 8:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m., (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., thedragonfly.com.

POSTMODERN FAMILY Sketch comedy by Rob Belushi, Andy Cobb, Celeste Pechous, David Pompeii and Katie Neff. Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 24. Second City Studio Theater, 6560 Hollywood Blvd., Second Floor, L.A., (323) 464-8542.

POWER IN THE BLOOD Sarah Bewley's story of a boy bleeding like Jesus on the cross. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 30, 3 p.m. Continues through April 30, writeactrep.org. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A., (323) 469-3113, www.writeactrep.org.

NEW REVIEW QUICK AND IN MY ARMS/THE ENDLESS NIGHT

Publicized as "an evening in limbo," Peter J. Roth's one-act couplet

explores the boundaries of reality and fantasy and our often elusive

perceptions about them. In The Endless Night, solidly directed by Daniel

Armas, the line between the real and the unreal dims beyond

recognition, as we are pulled into the dream world of a deranged woman

(Kimi Buser), who drifts between two different lives with two different

men (Dario Torres, Matt Calloway), and is powerless to distinguish one

from the other. In this piece, Roth shrewdly mixes sprightly humor with

the subtly macabre for a riveting story, augmented by fine performances.

Quick and in My Arms is a dubious meditation on love and death

involving a young man named Lazarus (Gus Krieger), who discovers, after a

seemingly routine health checkup, that he has no vital signs and is

dead. Thestartling revelation produces some genuinely humorous moments

and exchanges with a priest (Timothy Portnoy) and a waiter (Sean Frye),

and about 10 minutes of dramatic interest. Instead of broaching

something substantive, Roth offers a nearly hourlong, frivolous ditty

with a head-scratching, melodramatic ending. Cast performances are

equally unimpressive under Buser's direction, the only exception being

Erin Miller Williams, who plays Laz's wife, Molly. Great Scott

Theatre/Met Theatre Complex, 1089 N. Oxford St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; thru April 30. brownpapertickets.com/event/168990. (Lovell Estell III) theMETtheatre.com.

GO RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL Re-Animator: The Musical is based on Stuart Gordon's 1985 film, and Gordon is on hand to direct the new musical. The centerpiece is a love story (of course) that's a joke on every love story ever written. Idealistic young hospital intern Dan Cain (Chris L. McKenna) has a poor time accepting the death of patients. Standing by a gurney, over the body of a woman who has flatlined, Dan administers CPR in vain, prodding her with electro pads, until the chorus of medics has to sing, "She's dead, Dan/Get it through your head, Dan." His distress over the cessation of life becomes an obsession that threatens his impending marriage to beautiful Meg Halsey (Rachel Avery), daughter of the local university's dean (George Wendt). Big Dean Halsey is an amiable, conservative fellow who's accepting of Dan as a potential son-in-law, despite his lack of old-money social credentials. Well, amiable until he's accidentally murdered, as he later interrupts a gooey romantic interlude between Meg and Dan by crashing through the door as a psychotic zombie. The romance is wrapped around a conflict between dueling scientists: self-proclaimed plagiarist Dr. Hill (Jesse Merlin, in a mop wig, whose pinched facial expressions would creep out the most openhearted social worker) and a newcomer to Hill's lab, Herbert West (Graham Skipper, possessing the salty charm -- and costume -- of an embittered undertaker). While Hill drools over Meg, West rents a room from Dan (since Meg won't move in until they're wed). When the romantic couple's pet cat disappears, then ghoulishly reappears post-mortem via West's experiments (props by Jeff Rack), Dan enters a Faust-like partnership with West, seeing the potential fulfillment of his God-defying desire to harness the science of immortality. Mark Nutter's music and very witty lyrics (recalling songs by Tom Lehrer) careen from modern opera to light opera, from melodramatic wailing to -- when the story gets really gruesome -- Gilbert and Sullivanstyle patter songs. The special effects (by Tony Doublin, John Naulin, John Buechler, Tom Devlin and Greg McDougall), such as a body decapitated with a shovel and intestines unstrung from a corpse, are about as good as it gets -- gory without being so naturalistic as to bypass parody. The keys to this kingdom, however, are the combination of the brilliant comic ensemble and Gordon's pristine craftsmanship as a director, supplemented by Jeff Ravitz's lighting and musical director/arranger Peter Adams' building of suspense. Adams performs the score on a synthesizer tucked into the side of the hall, creating the slightly cheesy ambiance that's the life force of Grand Guignol. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 11:59 p.m.; Sundays, 3:30 p.m. Continues through May 29, (800) 595-4849. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A..

RENT Jonathan Larson's Tony Award-winner about the lives of idealistic starving artists, living in the squalor of Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, is much better suited for presentation in a small theater than one of those cavernous Broadway houses. A more intimate venue, like the comparatively modest Hudson Backstage theater that director Jerianne Banson uses in her otherwise uneven production, allows the audience to better connect with the characters and the music. Banson's intermittently chaotic staging crackles with the very, vital passion of youth. Some of the show, however, is an exercise in what happens when a great deal of enthusiasm collides with a lack of leavening experience. Larson's musical concerns a group of Hell's Kitchen bohemians, residing either on the means streets or in a filthy cold loft, who try to make ends meet while staying faithful to their beloved art. Young filmmaker Mark (Anthony Michael Knott) finds himself in a bizarre love triangle when his girlfriend leaves him for another woman - while Mark's aspiring songwriter roommate Roger (Matt Pick) falls for beautiful, but unwell stripper Mimi (Dominique Cox). Apart from the show's most obvious question -- how do these kids afford wraparound head microphones, but not hot water -- the strength of director Banson's production is totally connected to the vivacity of her youthful cast and their unabashed love for the material. On the other hand, Shoshona Zisk's musical direction frequently falters: Although some of the songs are powerful -- particularly Pick and Cox's meet-cute number "Light My Candle," many of the other numbers suffer from maladroit execution and weak harmonics. Notwithstanding the performers' omnipresent mics, the band frequently upstages the singing, drowning out the performers, who are forced to sing-holler louder to compensate. The show is double cast. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 21, (323) 960-7822, plays411.com/rent. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., hudsontheatre.com.

RIDING THE MIDNIGHT EXPRESS WITH BILLY HAYES The author of Midnight Express, who was held captive in a Turkish prison for five years, retells the story in own words. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12, (323) 960-4442, plays411.com. Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., thehayworth.com.

SEX, RELATIONSHIPS, AND SOMETIMES . . . LOVE Monologues on all of the above, by Joelle Arqueros. Thursdays, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Continues through May 12, (323) 769-5566. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., complexhollywood.com.

NEW REVIEW SHOE STORY After Nike released its Air

Jordan basketball shoe in 1985 at the then-astronomical price of $115 a

pair, a subsequent spate of violent

muggings in which ghetto teens were murdered for their shoes became a

rallying cry for those who felt the crimes were emblematic of the Reagan

era's runaway materialism. Playwright Ben Snyder revisits those

headlines in an "urban fairy tale" that begs the question, Does a news

story slant carry the metaphoric weight needed to hold down a

full-length stage drama? Based on the evidence of director Maureen

Huskey's slick but indecisive staging, the answer appears to be, well,

no. The play features Justin Alston as O.G.Mar, self-appointed street

mentor to hapless Foot Locker clerk PeeWee (Norm Johnson). After PeeWee

is dumped by a gold-digging girlfriend (Nikki Brown), O.G. spins him a

sad story of a shoe store in the 1980s (Sibyl Wickersheimer's cleverly

exploded storefront/NYC bus shelter set) in which a similar clerk's

inability to discriminate between matters of the heart and styling kicks

for the feet ultimately leads to tragedy. Rather than allowing such

slender satire to run its own course, Huskey strains the proceedings

with excessively broad physical shtick and superfluous documentary video

(by Bryan Maier and Anthony Puente) as if to underscore that the play

is meant to be both funny and socially relevant. The gambit backfires

when Act 2 takes an abrupt left turn into muddled melodrama and the

otherwise rock-solid ensemble is left scrambling to get a foothold on

the suddenly much darker register. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga

Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 22. (323)

856-8611, theatreofnote.com. (Bill Raden)

SLOW CHILDREN CROSSING Six weeks of "inappropriate humor," courtesy the sketch-comedy troupe. Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 15. King King, 6555 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., (323) 960-9234, kingkinghollywood.com.

GO SMALL ENGINE REPAIR Laced with casual expletives, John Pollono's one-act play packs a powerful punch. When a trio of longtime mates from Manchester, New Hampshire get together for some heavy drinking in Frank's car mechanic workshop ― David Mauer's beautifully realized set ― they reminisce about old times and chat about women, the internet and the virtues of social networking. The pals, confident Frank (John Pollono), ladies man Swaino (Jon Bernthal) and nervy guy Packie (Michael Redfield) indulge in trading insults and mocking digs as they chew the fat. Inappropriate comments, harsh words and hasty apologies are exchanged, but nobody's sure why Frank is busting out the good whiskey. A young college kid (Josh Helman) arrives to do a quiet drug deal with Frank and all of a sudden the scene erupts into terrifying violence. Pollono's script is an exquisitely-modulated gem of a play, gripping the viewer with a storyline that is both shocking and sobering in its commentary on modern interactions in the technological age. Director Andrew Block extracts such realistic performances from his cast that we almost forget we are watching a play, as the appalling action unfolds mere inches away. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through April 30, (323) 960-4424, roguemachinetheatre.com. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., theatretheater.net.

GO STREEP TEASE If you're a fan of Meryl Streep you'll like director Ezra Weisz's campy homage to the academy award winning actress. The show debuted two years ago and is the brainchild of stand-up comedian Roy Cruz, who has added a few tweaks without altering any of its ticklish appeal. The show uses seven male actors who perform monologues from a sampling of Streep's oeuvre.. This reviewer is a big fan and has seen all of the movies selected (which helps in appreciating the saucy humor on display), although even if you're not familiar with Streep's work, Streep Tease offers lot of fun and laughs. In addition to the performances, Cruz picks audience members to participate in a contest to test their "Streep Wise," worthiness, with a gift going to the winner. Matthew Nouriel, does a riotously funny take on Sara Woodruff, from the French Lieutenant's Woman (complete with the foggy backdrop), and then does an even funnier version set in a Muslim country with all the customary restraints. Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada is brought to life by Cruz, who does a wickedly bitchy turn salted with just the right tinge of icy detachment. And who could forget the nun from hell, the bossy, fussy bullying Sister Aloysius Beauvier from Doubt, here fully realized with knuckle-busting ruler, two rosaries and bonnet, by Bryan T. Donovan. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 p.m. Bang, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 653-6886, bangstudio.com.

SUPER SUNDAY Stephen Collins' comedy about a Vietnam vet turned ad executive whose wife takes an interest in a younger man. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through May 15. Moth Theatre, 4359 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 666-6684, moththeatre.com.

GO THE TEMPERAMENTALS The term NHI was a code word used by Los Angeles police in their case files in the 1950s. It stood for NO HUMANS INVOLVED, and referred to any cases concerning homosexuals, African-Americans, Latinos or other minorities the cops considered undesirable. In those days of virulent homophobia and institutionalized repression, gay activist Harry Hay (Dennis Christopher), designer and Viennese refugee Rudi Gernreich (Erich Bergen) and their friends, Chuck Rowland (Mark Shunock) and Bob Hull (John Tartaglia), organized the Mattachine Society, the first gay rights organization in the U.S. They referred to themselves as "Temperamentals" -- a code word for gays. They also embraced the cause of Dale Jennings (Patrick Scott Lewis), the defendant in the first legal case to successfully challenge the LAPD's entrapment policies. They were a colorful crew: Hay was married for 11 years, and fathered two children before he came out. As a former communist, he was summoned to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and in his later years he founded the Radical Faeries. Playwright Jon Marans employs theatrical shorthand and presentational style to tell a wide-ranging, complex tale, and director Michael Matthews gives it a lively staging, assisted by an able and engaging cast. (Neal Weaver). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 22. The Blank's Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 661-9827, theblank.com.

NEW REVIEW TIGER TIGER BURNING BRIGHT

Stage Raw: Uma-Care

Photo by Foxx

If

choice of text were the sole determinant of a revival's success, then

director Sam Nickens' rediscovery of Peter S. Feibleman's

all-but-forgotten curio of a 1962 Southern Gothic might be considered a

coup. Written in the quirky key of vintage Inge, Feibleman's tale of a

hardscrabble black family in early-1950s New Orleans is a surprisingly

fresh and unsentimental treatment of the self-deceiving hypocrisy of

respectability. The high-minded, widowed matriarch, Mama Morris (Regina

Randolph), is so in thrall to the memory of her criminally inclined

eldest son as a World War II battlefield martyr that she has made an

altar of the government telegram announcing his death in action. Eight

years later, however, the strain of living up to that legacy has

produced a household where nothing is what it seems. Son Clarence

(Damien Burke) is apparently the home's honest and hardworking

breadwinner. Cille (DaShawn Barnes) is the plain, migraine-plagued

daughter whose frail health appears to be dooming her to spinsterhood.

The emotionally arrested Dan (Richard John Reliford) is seemingly

engaged to the ostensibly demure belle Adelaide (Barika A. Croom). But

when a Korean War draft notice for Clarence punctures the family's

carefully guarded fictions, self-knowledge rushes in to exact a terrible

toll. Despite outstanding performances by the women, Nickens' lax and

uneven staging (on lighting designer Chris Covics' ramshackle

kitchen-sink set) never gets beyond the play's surface melodrama to

plumb its far more tantalizing gallery of psychological grotesques. An

Upward Bound Production. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd.,

Hlywd.;Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 22. (323) 960-7740, plays411.com/tiger. (Bill Raden)

TWELFTH NIGHT Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identity. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 8. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., (323) 525-0661, attictheatre.org.

THE UNREQUITED (BETWEEN TWO WORLDS) Cornerstone Theater Company presents Lynn Manning's world premiere, based on S. Ansky's The Dybbuk, set in Watts during the Great Depression. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., May 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 18, 8 p.m. Continues through May 22, (213) 613-1700 x113, CornerstoneTheater.org. Youth Opportunities High School, Mafundi Auditorium, 1827 E. 103rd St., L.A..


WOMEN ARE CRAZY BECAUSE MEN ARE ASSHOLES World premiere of Brad T. Gottfred's study of the sexes. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30, (323) 244-2987, cyur.com. Imagined Life, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., L.A..


CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

ALL IN THE TIMING A collection of comic one acts by David Ives. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 1, 3 p.m. Continues through May 1. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, (818) 745-8527, nohoartsdistrict.com/theatreweb/crowncity.htm.

BAR TALK Jay Parker's comedy set in a local bar. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m., lizardtheater.com. Lizard Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 457-5293, lizardtheater.com.

GO THE BIRTHDAY BOYS Stop me if you've heard this one: Three U.S. Marines walk into an Iraqi storage room. OK, they don't walk. They get dragged into it. Point being, there are three of them, and they're together in this room. "Seems a bit dark and serious a scenario for a punch line," you think to yourself, but you would be wrong, because Aaron Kozak, who won the "Fringe First" award at last year's Hollywood Fringe Festival for this play, makes it much funnier than you would expect. Without being disrespectful to the gravity of military service or the war in Iraq, Kozak finds dark humor in the humanity of three Marines --privates Chester Gullette (Gregory Crafts), Lance Tyler (Sean Fitzgerald) and Colin Carney (Jim Martyka) -- who have been captured from Al Asad air base by members of the Mahdi Militia. All three are bound hand and foot with duct tape and blindfolded, which limits their interactions but generates some solid physical comedy, such as when Lance tries to fight Colin and they end up writhing around like angry inchworms. Director Jacob Smith's spot-on timing effectively modulates transitions from lighter discussions of women and home lives to darker topics such as war and impending doom. Fitzgerald, as the most intense and combative of the three, genuinely makes us dislike him at times; Martyka, though quiet for long spells, believably exudes shame for attempting to abandon his brothers; Crafts, as the most mature and levelheaded of the men, pleasantly subverts the stereotypical Marine. And to top it all off, there's an unexpected twist that takes the comedy to a whole new level. A Theatre Unleashed production. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30, (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, noho-stages.us.

BLIND SPOTS Sibling rivalry and one-upmanship reach sinister heights when two sisters with diametrically opposed beliefs clash in Colette Freedman's patchy black comedy. The setting is a small, East Coast university town. Gretchen (Vanessa Waters), a gay journalist, becomes incensed and decides to publish an editorial damning the anti-gay decrees from the liberal-arts college president. Problem is, this president is her abusive, homophobic older sister Kate (director Elise Robertson). Gretchen's act of public humiliation ignites an all-out war between the sisters as the pair dredge up recriminations, accusations and even threaten blackmail. Meanwhile Gretchen's cute and sporty young lover Janna (Jade Sealey) is unaware she might get hit by some shrapnel. Playwright Freedman co-stars as Gretchen's BFF Frieda, giving us a hilarious drunk act and some deliciously bitchy put-downs. Freedman punctuates the often inane banter and heated arguments with plaintive 1960s folk tunes by Cat Stevens and Jesse Colin Young, performed live by Logan Lozier (doubling as the sisters' tragically departed brother). Placing Lozier upstage center, on a raised platform, lends him an angelic presence. Freedman's play features powerful themes and quirky characters (notably the Afro-centric wacky mom Birdy, played by Helen Mary Wilson), but the writing isn't nearly as strong as her ideas. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30, (818) 381-3024, blindspotsplay.com. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.

CAT'S CRADLE Leslie Sands' murder mystery set in the English village of Waverton Magna. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through June 4. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

CHAPTER TWO Neil Simons comedy, part of the JCC's Celebrity Staged Play Reading Series. Sun., May 1, 2 p.m., (323) 556-5225. Westside JCC, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A., westsidejcc.org.

THE COLUMBINE PROJECT Paul Storiale examines the Colorado high school massacre. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30, brownpapertickets.com/event/168171. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 766-9100.

GO THE CRUCIBLE Director Sean Branney grabs hold of Arthur Miller's red-scare allegory, wringing emotionally charged, angst-ridden performances from the talented cast. Young Abigail Williams (a brilliantly conniving Sarah van der Pol) and her gaggle of naive girlfriends extricate themselves from an oceanic amount of hot water by explaining their late-night woodsy romp with Barbadian servant Tituba (Hollie Hunt) as a ritual in which Tituba conjured the devil, whom they claim walked side by side with scores of local women. A witch hunt ensues and the girls point their adolescent fingers at any woman they want hanged. John Proctor (Shawn Savage), whose love affair with the conniving Abigail comes back to bite him, sets out to debunk the witchcraft accusations when his wife, Elizabeth (a steadfastly stony Karen Zumsteg), becomes Abigail's target. Branney masterfully creates chaos, pitting neighbor against neighbor, husband against wife and holy man against lawman in what amounts to a town battle of holy-war proportions. Van der Pol's Abigail is so full of vicious vengeance that she practically hisses her misguided intentions to win the affections of Savage's skillfully choked-up Proctor. Fear drives the outrageous events of the play, and Branney relentlessly shines light on the fatal foolishness of a fear-driven society. (Amy Lyons). Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 15, $20, $15 students & seniors. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, (818) 846-5323, theatrebanshee.org.

GO CYCLOPS: A ROCK OPERA GO CYCLOPS: A ROCK OPERA It gets so wearying -- all the satyr plays being done in L.A. . . . No, hold on, sorry: Was confusing satyr plays with autobiographical solo shows. Satyr plays are an ancient Greek oddity, violent, erotic comedic concoctions that used to be performed with three tragedies in annual festivals. I've never seen one performed, and only one still exists, Cyclops by Euripides, filched from the Homeric legend of Odysseus being drawn to the shores of Mt. Aetna by the seductive love-call of The Sirens. In Louis Butelli, Chas LiBretto & Robert Richmond's scintillating rock opera adaptation, featuring a hedonistic band (The Satyrs) in goat-skin pantaloons and a bare-chested drummer (Stephen Edelstein), that love-call sounds like so much caterwauling. Co-directed by the co-adapters, the event recalls Radosaw Rychik's adaptation of Bernard-Marie Koltès In the Solitude of Cotton Fields last year at REDCAT - a similar kind of rock cantata backed up by the Polish band, Natural Born Chillers. Here, almost everyone's eyes are rimmed in goth black paint, half the cast have fingernails to match. The music here goes from twisted ukelele-accompanied ballads, to Mick Jagger and punk lampoons, singing the story of how Odysseus (Chas LiBretto) subjugated (by intoxicating with wine and then blinding) the one-eyed cycloptic monster, Polyphemus (Jayson Landon Marcus), who has been holding Dionysus (Casey Brown) captive, along with and almost everyone else in the shadow of the mountain. (Polyphemus is the embittered son of the Poseidon, if you follow such things.) A trio of gorgeous Maenads (Nicole Flannigan, Madeleine Hamer and Liz Sydah), attired in figure-clenching silks (costumes by Caiti Hawkins) serve as back-up singers (and more). One of them mentions that cruelty in life brings a legacy of contempt, whereas kindness brings a legacy of enduring love. This beautiful idea doesn't sound particularly Greek (given their rigid codes of honor and revenge). Whether or not Homer or Euripides gave it lip service, that Shakespearean notion anchors and gives this ancient comic book update its humanity, a moral hall pass for the hedonism it wallows in so gleefully, and with such style and skill. Psittacus Productions at

Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY, pasadenaplayhouse.org.

DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD OF OZ Steve and Kathy Hotchner's interactive kids musical based on the L. Frank Baum story. Presented by June Chandler's Fairy Tale Theatre. Starting April 30, Sat., April 30, 2:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through June 4. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

ELIZABETH BATHORY, THE BLOOD COUNTESS Writer/director Bea Egeto's hourlong historical account of the 16th-century serial killer Elizabeth Bathory takes the audience through a fun chronology of blood, lust and justice, but falls short of capturing the complexity of the subject. The Countess Bathory had an obsession with staying young, convincing herself that the blood of young maidens could sustain her youth. She and her small circle of cohorts began kidnapping girls and covering up their disappearances. Eventually enough people suspected her of wrongdoing that she was locked away, claiming her innocence right up until she died in prison, without trial. A large, fantastic cast and razor sharp staging keeps the pace moving, and both Charlotte Bjornbak's young Bathory and Leaha Boschen's storytelling-prisoner Bathory, tap into the historical countess' dangerous psychosis with aplomb. However, at the top of the play when Bathory, rotting in prison, implores us to listen to her side of the story, what follows is such a straightforward interpretation of events, when she finally asks us to judge her, we never really get a sense of why she feels so steadfastly innocent. (Luis Reyes). Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through April 30. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

FETISH Bryan Rasmussen's staging of Dolores Ribakoff's series of comic vignettes about fetishistic sex between consenting adults makes almost no reach for ideas about why people act out erotically the way they do. Where's Jean Genet when you need him? Imagine an R-rated episode of 1970s TV show Love, American Style, as the style of both the titillation and the jokes pre-dates Sex and the City. But these characters are stupider -- often the point -- and there are some sweet nuggets. In a scene about two hetero couples wife-swapping, the disappointment on the face of Caroline Langford, eagerly awaiting the imagined magnitude of her appointed lover's member and then realizing its diminished reality, has the comedic punch of an old vaudeville routine. There is some nice play about illusions and delusions, expectations and disappointments. It's bravely acted and danced (choreography by Tania Pearson-Loeser), but it's domestic stuff. Let's just say its minuscule ambitions are fully realized -- as seen on TV. (Steven Leigh Morris). Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 990-2324.

FIREHOUSE Unlike police officers, who are so often feared or mistrusted, firefighters almost always engage the appreciation and respect of the people they serve. Playwright Pedro Antonio Garcia's message-minded melodrama jump-starts around the community's perceived betrayal of that covenant, and the pressure brought to bear upon a firefighter named Perry (Kamar de los Reyes) to make a bogus choice between loyalty to his unit and loyalty to his Puerto Rican ethnic group. A 20-year department vet, Perry is on the cusp of retirement when a crisis erupts at the South Bronx firehouse after a colleague named Boyle (Gerald Downey) rescues another firefighter from a burning building but leaves behind a 12-year-old child. Boyle steadfastly maintains he didn't see the girl for the smoke, but his credibility is open to question -- in no small part because of his personal history as a former cop who was tried and acquitted for shooting an unarmed civilian. Whereas the community, represented here by Perry's fiancée, Aida (Jossara Jinaro), a criminal defense attorney, is up in arms, most of Boyle's buddies give him the benefit of the doubt and pressure Perry to do the same. Garcia gleaned aspects of his story from real-life headlines in this effort to offer up an intrepid examination of how our native prejudices cloud our judgment. Too often, however, the characters seem mere profanity-riddled mouthpieces for one side or another's point of view, a problem exacerbated by Bryan Rasmussen's overheated direction. Most discrepant is Jinaro's counselor-at-law, unconvincing as a perspicacious professional not only by virtue of her mini-skirted and otherwise revealing attire but in her strident insistence that Perry take her side for personal reasons rather than principled ones. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 27, (323) 822-7898, theatermania.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

HAVING IT ALL At Gate B26 in an airport convincingly designed by Stephen Gifford, five women sit judging each other's clothing. The lady in Prada pumps (Jennifer Leigh Warren) assumes the woman in sneakers (Shannon Warne) must be an immature free spirit; the woman in sneakers is convinced that Prada pumps is a rotten mother. The entrance of a country girl in awkward heels (Kim Huber) provokes condescension; a hipster with crutches (Lindsey Alley) moves Warren to sneer she's a "30-year-old yenta dressed up like the cast of Rent." And when a dizzy hippie (the very funny Alet Taylor) bops in with her yoga mat, the ladies are aghast that she's barefoot. Still, between snipes, each looks at the others and sighs, "How I'd love to be in her shoes." The metaphor of footwear for femmepowerment is staler than the olives at Carrie Bradshaw's fave martini bar, but at least David Goldsmith and Wendy Perelman's well-intentioned musical about the hair-pulling pressure to "have it all" is blessed with a gifted cast, which Richard Israel directs with energy and bite. The ensemble sings numbers about motherhood, marriage, J-Date and downward-facing dog. It's all pleasant, but the show is held back by the homogeneity of the songs, in both John Kavanaugh's music and Gregory Nabours' musical direction, which takes five strong voices and molds them all to the same Broadway bombast. The audience for the musical already knows everything it aims to say; it's simply an excuse to rally a gang of girlfriends for a night at the theater, which seems to suit this production just fine. (Amy Nicholson). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 29. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-7101, thenohoartscenter.com.

HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY AND NEVER BE FOUND Fin Kennedy's story of a young executive desperate for a new life, inspired by the book by Doug Richmond. Starting April 30, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 29. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, (626) 683-6883, bostoncourt.org.

IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 762-2272, tworoadsgallery.com.

THE MALCONTENT The Antaeus Company presents John Marston's Jacobean stage play. Starting May 5, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through June 19. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 762-2998, deafwest.org.

NEW EYES Yafit Josephson gives an accomplished performance in her solo show about a Jewish actress facing down Hollywood's cultural stereotypes. It's marred only by a poorly designed slide show. Josephson slips easily into various personae, combining characters with caricatures to good comedic effect. The opening has her switching from a formidable military officer to her nervous young self on her first day of compulsory military training in the Israeli army. Highlights include a hilarious mime sequence where she uncomprehendingly attempts yoga and another scene where she gives a goofy impression of a macho guy in an Israeli nightclub. Josephson's tall, slender build, piercing eyes and chiseled face lend her a commanding presence, but it's her prominent proboscis that relegates her to the usual gamut of villainous roles, from terrorist to evil witch -- "And no, they didn't have to use a fake nose," she jokes. Her adult journey takes her from the New World back to Israel, where she touches base with her culture, returning to Hollywood with newfound strength of character. Beneath the comedy lies a serious undercurrent stemming from the ongoing war in the Middle East: Land equals identity. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 26, (310) 500-0680, neweyesplay.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE Neil Simon's rat-race comedy. (No perfs April 22-24 & May 7-8.). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 29, (323) 960-7862, plays411.com/prisoner. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, gtc.org.

GO PURSUED BY HAPPINESS Sensible shoes and charmingly dorky delivery aside, Frank Orlis (Mark St. Amant) cuts a dashing figure during the courtship dance. "I have zero recollection of any day but the day at hand," he tells the object of his single-minded pursuit, fellow biochemist Julie Moore (Avery Clyde), while simultaneously informing her he's been watching her. The layup works, even if Frank couldn't be less of a Romeo; women, even stoic, serious ones like Julie, respond to feeling like they alone are worth remembering. Keith Huff's new play wriggles in these insights unobtrusively, even if the big-picture ideas ("We're not pursuing happiness as much as happiness is biologically pursuing us") are a little too obvious. But the play is a nice change of scenery from traditional rom-coms: The whirlwind romance is actually a practical plot, and the measured Frank and Julie don't ride off into a fairy-tale sunset. Family visits give the design team a chance to show off (Craig Siebels' set, Adam Flemming's projection, and Jocelyn Hublau's costumes) are so evocatively detailed, but they do feel a little device-y, and leave too many unanswered questions, including one that leaves the audience squirming as well. Still, agile in their double duty as both sets of parents, Elizabeth Herron and Tom Knickerbocker easily could've been Huff's sole motivation for writing the ultimately unsatisfying scenes. Robin Larsen directs. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 29, RoadTheatre.org. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 752-7568.

GO ROCKIN' WITH THE AGES 3 This is the third in a series of musical revues designed to give older performers a chance to prove they can still kick up their heels and shine: All (except the instrumental combo) are over sixty years of age, but they are all solid pros, with impressive resumes and a treasure trove of skills. The book, by director Bill Reid and musical director Mark Rodriguez, is totally predictable, but it's enlivened by the large ensemble's terrific performances, and by a wonderful array of golden oldies from the 1960s and 70s, including "My Guy," "Hit the Road, Jack," "Stop in the Name of Love," "I'll Be There," "Like a Rolling Stone," and "It's My Party, and I'll Cry if I Want To." The show's first two editions tended to be a bit old-fashioned and tinged with amateurism, but this time around, it's slicker, faster, and more consistently entertaining, and audiences respond with fervor and enthusiasm. Raquel Brussolo supplies the crisp choreography, and instrumental accompaniment is provided an energetic combo headed by Mark Rodriguez on keyboards, Ma'Ryia Mahome on bass, James Munoz on guitar, Leslie Pereira on drums, and Rene Van der Tas, second guitar. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 1, (818) 606-6679. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, thevictorytheatrecenter.org.

THREE SISTERS OR PERESTROIKA Pavel Cerny's adaptation of the 1901 play by Anton Chekhov. Starting May 1, Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 12, (866) 811-4111, theatermania.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

URBAN DEATH Horror show by Zombie Joe's Underground. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through May 28. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

VERONIKA DECIDES TO DIE Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho has enjoyed inordinate success -- he sold 65 million copies of The Alchemist and set the Guinness World Record for the most-translated book by a living author. But on stage and screen, his stories founder. Both Warner Bros. and Harvey Weinstein have struggled to adapt The Alchemist, while a $9 million version of his 1998 novel Veronika Decides to Die, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, has languished unreleased in America. This is not surprising -- especially after watching Taylor Ashbrook and Beth Ricketson's nearly three-hour attempt to wrangle this book into submission. Ricketson plays the titular Veronika, a pretty Slovenian librarian who swallows a should-be-fatal dose of sleeping pills out of boredom. Every day is the same, she sighs to her two doctors, both so casual and unprofessional that they should be disbarred. When they tell Veronika that her suicide attempt destroyed her heart and left her with just five days to live, she spends days one and two trying to die faster, trolling for more pills when she could just do jumping jacks. Coelho is like Ken Kesey crossed with Deepak Chopra. Every line is a proclamation on sanity and civilization; the adapters have been intimidated into thinking they need a 12-person ensemble and dozens of speeches about clocks and sexual deviants and the Book of Genesis to make a single point: Conformity is nuts. When Veronika has an emotional breakthrough, masturbating in front of a hunky schizophrenic (Jonathan Trent), she tells three characters about it in three separate but equally pointless conversations. And at the end, there are flashbacks to lines people said just 15 minutes before. If Ashbrook's cast was stronger, the length would be less arduous, but the on-the-nose performances are exemplified in a scene where Ricketson bangs on a piano and screams, "I couldn't be what you wanted!" (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 15. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, (818) 508-3003, eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

WAIT UNTIL DARK When measured beside the sensational, blood-spattered exploits of today¹s infamous offenders, Frank Knott's 1966 crime fable about drugs and a home invasion seems terribly sedate. That, in a word, also sums up director David Colwell's revival. In the basement apartment of Sam and Susy Hendrix (Bert Emmett, Liza de Weerd), Sam has agreed to a stranger's request that he transport a doll for a sickly child. Unfortunately, the doll contains heroin, and he has lost it, which makes some hoodlums very unhappy. When Sam is forced to leave the city, Susy, who is blind, is thrown into a high-stakes game of survival when the smugglers come calling for their merchandise. Most of the deceptively simple plot is laid out in the opening minutes of the play, and as presented here, they are frustratingly blurry. This play rises and falls on the methodical ratcheting up of tension and suspense, both of which are but faint glimmers under Colwell's bland direction. Even the finale, which transpires in semi-darkness and should erupt with energy, implodes. There also are problems with cast: Leo Weltman and Chris Winfield, who portray the gangsters, project all the feral menace of a department-store Santa. Weltman comes across as an engaging buffoon much of the time -- which might have provided some comic relief were there any danger on stage to be relieved from. Robert Gallo, as Harry Roat the ringleader, fares slightly better. As the blind girl, Weerd turns in a perfectly credible performance. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 8. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 700-4878, thegrouprep.com.

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

DADDYO DIES WELL Murray Mednick's poetic, philosophical comedy, the fifth in his series of eight Gary Plays, seems to take place in several spheres at once, ranging from the Amazonian jungle, to the Andes, to Santa Monica to the afterlife. Salty, aging hipster DaddyO (Hugh Dane) has been run down by a hit-and-run driver, and now he's dying. He summons his actor step-son Gary (Casey Sullivan) to participate in an Indian soul-cleansing ritual involving the hallucinogenic, vomit-inducing drug Ayahuasca. Also somehow present, physically or spiritually, are DaddyO's deceased wife, the ruefully benevolent Mama Bean (Strawn Bovee), his kindly-but-misanthropic shrink (Jack Kehler), and Gary's two ex-wives, Gloria (Elizabeth Greer), who is on a vision quest in the Andes, and the forbidding and judgmental Marcia (Melissa Paladino). Presiding over all is the angel of death, Antonio (Peggy Ann Blow), who appears as an ice-cream vendor in a red jump-suit, and as a masked Indian shaman. Mednick's play is always interesting as it circles, playfully and endlessly, around various life-and-death issues, but it's sometimes so personal as to be hermetic. Dane is engaging and funny as the play's most fully-developed character, and the cast skillfully fleshes out the other inhabitants of his drama. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 22, (323) 960-7724, plays411.com/DaddyO. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice, electriclodge.org.

ENTROPY GENERAL Alive Theatre presents Ryan McClary's world-premiere "traumedy." Fri., April 29, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 30, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 14, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 28, 8 p.m., alivetheatre.org. The MADhouse, 624 Pacific Ave., Long Beach.

NEW REVIEW GO JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK

Stage Raw: Uma-Care

Photo by Ron Sossi

In

director Allan Miller's emotionally deft production of Sean O'Casey's

powerful Irish drama, "The whole world's in a state of total chassis."

And whatever you make of such a statement, this staging of O'Casey's

play artfully mixes blarney and despair in almost equal measure. Set in a

squalid Dublin tenement, circa 1920, O'Casey's play focuses on one of

the great tragic figures of the theater: amiable, gloating, lying loafer

"Captain" Jack Boyle (John Apicella), as lovable as he is overweening.

Instead of finding a useful job to please his frustrated wife, Juno

(Kitty Swink), Captain Jack boozes it up with his wastrel best pal,

"Joxer" Daly (Armin Shimerman). Jack is delighted when he learns he has

inherited a small fortune -- but outside their tenement, alarming

dangers lurk that destroy his daughter Mary (Jeanne Syquia) and son

Johnny (Josh Zuckerman). Miller's staging of this most character-driven

of plays commendably showcases personality, and the acting work is both

vivid and convincing. In Apicella's blustery turn as "the Paycock,"

Jack's not just a lazy, genial sod, he's "King Baby," a strutting alpha

male, whose sense of entitlement is noticeably at odds with the squalor

of his reality. An equal pleasure is Swink's tightly wound, brittle

Juno: In this tough, melancholy performance, the long-suffering,

hard-bitten wife clearly knows that she has turned into a hag as a

result of picking up after her hubby's irresponsible fecklessness.

Jack's true mate, of course, is his reprehensible boon companion Joxer

Daly, played with irresistible rattiness by Shimerman, whose oily

bonhomie is matched only by the character's spite when Jack's back is

turned. The shabby furniture of Chuck Erven's set in Act 1 turns into

slightly fancier furniture in Act 2 (when the family's fortunes look to

be made). There's even a working stove downstage, where Juno cooks up a

delicious-smelling Irish sausage, which (no insult to the cast of this

engaging and moving drama) inevitably steals the scene in which it

appears. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 5. (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com. (Paul Birchall)


GO LOCKED AND LOADED Ever hear the joke about the two guys with terminal brain tumors who decide to beat death to the punch? A Jew and a WASP dress up in tuxes, rent a presidential suite stocked with their favorite booze and call some hookers to help them go orgasmic into that good night. OK, so the subject matter and setup of, and even the quietly heartbreaking backstories in, actor-playwright Todd Susman's play are a little derivative -- Leaving Las Vegas and Marsha Norman's play 'Night, Mother spring to mind -- but some very clever writing and smart performances make this West Coast premiere much funnier and more mystical than the approach its predecessors took. Particularly interesting is Susman's deliberate trafficking in stereotypes. Old-monied Dickie Rice (Andrew Parks) is haughty as he hurls three strikes in quick succession at an African-American hooker, sniffing, "Do you know who I am?" and referring to her "Aunt Jemima" style of speaking. Sad-clown sitcom writer Irwin Schimmel (Paul Linke) turns his poison pen on himself and his Jewish heritage, and Catorce Martinez's (Terasa Sciortino) inability to understand English subtleties is the source of many jokes. But in electing Princess Lay-Ya (a very sharp Sandra Thigpen) queen pin, Susman gives the underdog the upper hand, which Lay-Ya uses to force the superficialities aside to reveal the very real, raw pain coursing beneath. After such deep diving, the resurface at play's end is a little easy; nevertheless, the whole shebang is a much more entertaining evening than the premise portends. Chris DeCarlo directs. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3:30 p.m. Continues through June 26. The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9779.

MR. MARMALADE Noah Haidle's story of a 4-year-old with an imaginary friend with a cocaine addiction. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 21. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (866) 811-4111, thegaragetheatre.org.

THE POOL OF BETHESDA California Repertory Company presents Allan Cubitt's tale of a post-op surgeon experiencing hallucinations of artist William Hogarth. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 14, (562) 985-5526, calrep.org. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, queenmary.com.

PUSH PLAY Los Angeles Rock Opera Company presents "A Quick One While He's Away," "Perseus at the Oki Dog," "15 Minutes of shAme" and "More Alive Than Dead." Fri., April 29, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., April 30, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., May 1, 7:30 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459, highwaysperformance.org.

RUMORS Neil Simon's comedy about a suburban dinner and a dead body. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 8. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades, (310) 454-1970.

SAND IN THE AIR Brian Raine's story of a doctor in a remote Texas border town accused of sexual improprieties. Starting April 30, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 28. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-7519, morgan-wixson.org.

TARTUFFE A few minutes into Jon Kellam's rendering of Molière's classic farce, you know you're not in for a routine production. There's the flowery, drawn-out introduction by Steven Porter, spoken in French with audio translation; the colorful mass of balloons heaped at center stage; and sound effects from the "noisy corner," courtesy of Jef Bek, who plays various percussion instruments and keyboard organ. All nice touches in this tale about a hypocritical scoundrel who by dint of pious pretense and subterfuge wreaks havoc on a respectable Frenchman and his family. However, Kellam has his sights on underscoring the work's timelessness via David Ball's breezy adaptation, which bestrides the author's 17th century, our own era and various points between. The effect is more of an imposition than an illumination. It's also interlarded with much that is digressive and not at all funny. The physical comedy is effectual -- to a point -- but it starts to wear especially thin in the languorous Act 2, along with Bek's seemingly endless potpourri of sound effects. Cast performances are lively and engaging, the one exception being a flat Pierre Adeli (who in all fairness was brought in a week earlier in place of the ailing Scott Harris), in the critical role of Tartuffe. Fully memorable are Ben Kahookele's gorgeous costumes, and Mary Eileen O'Donnell's smattering of props, which are cleverly designed and used. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, (310) 838-4264, theactorsgang.com.


NEW REVIEW GO UNSCRIPTED REP

Stage Raw: Uma-Care

Photo by William Adashek

Rampant

alcohol abuse, closeted homosexuality and shrill Southern belles

nervously walking the line between hysterical rage and catatonic

collapse: This is Tennessee Williams territory and the folks at Impro

Theatre traverse the Southern Gothic terrain with hilarious

authenticity. No, it's not The Glass Menagerie or A Streetcar Named Desire, it's a spontaneously authored, full-length play crafted to capture the

style, mood and thematic leanings of a given playwright. Last Saturday,

that playwright was Williams (in rotating rep, William Shakespeare and

Stephen Sondheim also get the improv treatment), and a boozy family saga

emerged after audience members agreed upon two simple items to launch

the story: a family heirloom (a vase with horses on it) and an animal (a

Chihuahua). The particulars of the play are not important, because the

troupe never

replicates the same show. What is notable is their collective knack for

creating characters and scenarios we recognize in an instant as

quintessentially Williams. The vase is introduced as a wedding gift for

an excitable June (Kari Coleman), who initially squeals with joy over

the

charmingly upbeat journey of the horses. By play's end, however, the

horses race in a hopelessly circular trajectory that serves as a

metaphor for the futility of marriage. Darnell (Stephen Kearn), June's

teen brother, dreams of escaping on horseback from his sexual longings

for his art teacher (Brian Lohmann, who also directs with a clear grasp

of the requisite atmospheric touches) and his overbearing, hard-drinking

father. Lisa Fredrickson's

quick-witted portrayal of a matriarch bearing an uncanny resemblance to

Amanda Wingfield was a delight. Textual mining and fast thinking marry

with ease in the ensemble's hands. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda

Blvd.; W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 29. (310)

477-2055, odysseytheatre.com. (Amy Lyons)


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >