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Stage Raw: Unknown Future, Theater on Seward Closes Its Doors

Stage Raw: Unknown Future, Theater on Seward Closes Its Doors


COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS
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THEATER REVIEWS


STAGE FEATURE on Lieutenant of Inishmore and A Tale Told by an Idiot


AN UNKNOWN FUTURE: Theater on Seward Closes its Doors

John Fleck performs tonight (Thursday), 8 p.m. with his sardonic

one-man comedy about Trader Joe's (and points beyond), Side Effects

May Include . . . marking the closing performance at Unknown Theater's

Hollywood venue at 1111 N. Seward Street.

Unknown's Artistic Director Chris Covics said that after five years

of programming, and transforming a warehouse space into a scene for

theater, stand-up comedy, and rock and roll, the landlord posted a

three-day eviction notice. This gives the company until Saturday,

midnight to take down lighting equipment, rigging, bleachers and a bar

that took them three months to build. The company gathered at the

theater last night for a wake.

Covics said there was no reason given by the landlord for the

eviction, but said the company was about six weeks late on the rent. He speculates that departure of an anchor tenant up the

street motivated the landlord to sell all his properties on the block.

Covics said that with a little help from his friends, he's found a

makeshift performance space south of Union Station, downtown, where

Michael Sargent's play Mondo Don Juan will open on schedule,

August 20.

For COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS press the More tab

directly below

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for July 16 - 22, 2010

Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver. These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for any play by title, using your computer's search engine.

OPENING THIS WEEK

AFTERSHOCKS Written by Doug Haverty. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Tues., July 20, 8 p.m.. (323) 851-7977.

BEDROOM FARCE Alan Ayckbourn's suburban marriage comedy. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens July 17; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310) 477-2055.

BEHOLD: A QUEER PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL Song, dance and performance by Tim Miller, Raquel Gutierrez, Ian MacKinnon, jhon r. stronks, Alex Davis, Sounds of Asteroth, Corey Saucier, Chris Doggett, Hank Henderson, and more., $20 per performance, all-access pass $75. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Mon., July 19; July 22-Aug. 2. (310) 315-1459.

BOB BAKER'S CIRCUS Marionette extravaganza, first introduced at this very theater in 1961. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; opens July 17; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; thru Sept. 26, bobbakermarionettes.com. (213) 250-9995.

BONNIE IN BRIGHTON One-woman show about a Texas girl in a British seaside town, starring Erin Parks. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens July 18; Sun., July 18, 7 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 5:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (323) 962-1632.

CARNEY'S WONDERS An evening of illusion with magician John Carney. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., July 17, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 18, 2 p.m.. (323) 851-7977.

CARRY IT ON! James Cromwell, Amy Madigan, Michael O'Neill, Jordan Belfi and Christina Pickles headline this benefit performance under the stars. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Fri., July 16, 8 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.

CIRCLE OF WILL  Bill Cakmis and Jack Grapes' story of the "lost years" of William Shakespeare. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; opens July 16; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 15, www.plays411.com/circleofwill. (323) 960-7822.

DOCTOR CERBERUS L.A. Theatre Works presents Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's "coming-of-age, coming-out cocktail with a twist of terror.". Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Fri., July 16, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 17, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., July 18, 4 p.m., latw.org. (310) 827-0889.

FAST & LOOSE Eight new plays created in 24 hours. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., July 17, 8 p.m.. (310) 281-8337.

IT'S CRIMINAL Murray Meyer's legal comedy. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat., July 17, 8 p.m.. (310) 394 9779, ext. 1.

JEWTOPIA  Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson's story of two single men: a gentile obsessed with dating Jewish women and a Jew obsessed with dating gentile girls. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; opens July 16; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (323) 655-7679.

KILL YOUR TELEVISION Jeff Gardner's dialogue-free solo comedy. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sat., July 17, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 23, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 6:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 14, 6 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/119084. (800) 838-3006.

LADY LANCING, OR THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Oscar Wilde's original script, courtesy Ark Theatre Company. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; opens July 17; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 15, arktheatre.org. (323) 969-1707.

LINDA EDER Cabaret at Center Stage Theatre, 8463 Sierra Ave., Fontana; July 16-17. (909) 429-7469.

LOVE, CONNIE Multimedia dance comedy thriller by the Nellie Olesons' John Cantwell. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; opens July 16; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; thru July 24, cavernclubtheater.com. (323) 969-2530.

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (NEW JERSEY) Culver City Public Theatre reworks Shakespeare. Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park, Motor Ave. & Braddock Dr., Culver City; opens July 17; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 712-5482.

MR. PUNTILA AND HIS MAN MATTI Antaeus Company presents Bertolt Brecht's comic parable. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; July 20-22, 8 p.m....

NEW ORIGINAL WORKS FESTIVAL 2010 The seventh annual festival serves up all-new dance, theater, music and multimedia performance works. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; opens July 22; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 7. (213) 237-2800.

NOT ABOUT HEROES Stephen MacDonald's tale of the friendship of World War I British soldier-poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens July 17; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22, plays411.com/heroes. (323) 960-7744.

PROCREATION World premiere of Justin Tanner's child-rearing comedy. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens July 16; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 & 9:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 15, plays411.com. (310) 477-2055.

SPEECH & DEBATE Stephen Karam's sex scandal about a gay teenager and a politician. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens July 16; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (877) 620-7673.

STILL DAISY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS Rare cabaret appearance by Tony Award-winner Daisy Eagan., $20, plus two-item food/drink minimum. Vermont, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Sat., July 17, 8 p.m.. (323) 661-6163.

[title of show] "Musical about making a musical." Music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen, book by Hunter Bell. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens July 16; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 5. (323) 957-1884.

THE TRUE STORY OF JACK AND THE BEANSTALK Children's Popcorn Theatre show, written and directed by Heidi Dotson. Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park, Motor Ave. & Braddock Dr., Culver City; opens July 17; Sat.-Sun., noon.; thru Aug. 22. (310) 712-5482.

THE WASTE LAND Filament Theatre Co. presents a workshop performance of the T. S. Eliot poem. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sat., July 17, 2 p.m.; Sat., July 24, 9:30 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 10 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 7, 8 p.m.. (800) 838-3006.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

GO BEYOND This musical extravaganza, conceived and directed by Aurelien Roulin, is described as a cross between French cabaret and Cirque du Soleil, but what it's really reminiscent of is the old Folies Berére, or Las Vegas without the bared bosoms. Like the Folies , it features banks of stairs that the showgirls can saunter down in their minimal costumes, adorned with maximum feathers and glitz, and sometimes escorted by lads in loincloths. Also like the old French show, there's audience participation, in which two sheepish men from the audience are led onstage and decked out in preposterous drag. The show has 17 performers, six choreographers, a stilt-walker, a unicyclist, a bit of boogie-woogie, and exotic numbers evoking many nations: Japan, Africa, France and India, represented by "The Forbidden Temple," a Bollywood-style spectacle, choreographed by Kavita Rao. A mix of Edith Piaf songs is stylishly delivered by Ripley Rader, a couple of mildly erotic aerial sequences are performed by scantily clad Roulin and Sunny Soriano, and there's an impressive toe-dancing contortionist, Ganchimeg Oyunchimeg. But the greatest excitement is unleashed when the dancers cut loose, particularly in the frenzied cancan finale. In short, there's plenty of flash, flesh and fantasy, suitably toned down for a family audience. (Neal Weaver). El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Tues.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25. (818) 508-4200.

CHiPS the Musical Those masters of the mashed-up musical parody, the Troubadour Theater, have always played by their own comedic rules. Rule No. 1, invoked repeatedly in this uneven send-up of NBC's kitschy, late-'70s police drama, is to follow the laughs wherever they lead. And if that means repeatedly tossing out the script when it isn't hitting on all cylinders -- as is the case with writers Rick Batalla and Henry Phillips' roughly tuned lampoon -- and substituting it with the Troubies' trademark repertoire of quick-draw ad libs, self-mocking asides, audience-harassing gibes and an escalating onstage hugger-muggery, so be it. Batalla and director Matt Walker fill the famously skintight CHP uniforms (courtesy of costumer Sharon McGunigle) of swaggering freeway heroes Ponch and John as they ride down a marauding gang of lesbian ecoterrorists led by "synthetic albino" KG (Beth Kennedy). Meanwhile, the new political realities are shaking up the station, as sexist supervising sergeant "Getrear" (Mike Sulprizio) is sent off for sensitivity training and replaced with the sexy, Pam Grier-like ballbuster, Carmel (Michelle Anne Johnson). The 14 loony production numbers (under Eric Heinly's musical direction), neatly skewer the original series' generic, funk-flavored, adult-contemporary score along with its absurdly insipid storylines -- talk about shooting fish in a barrel! -- and even produce the occasional gem, like Caroline Gross' hilarious, must-be-seen, aerial-birthing flashback dance. (Bill Raden)., $26-$46. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru July 25. 818-955-8101.

GO GRACE & GLORIE Sensitive direction by Cameron Watson and distinguished performances by Beth Grant and Melinda Page Hamilton transform playwright Tom Ziegler's predictable tear-jerker into genuinely compelling theater. In a virtuoso turn with not a false note, Grant portrays Grace, an illiterate and opinionated nonagenarian who's outlived her husband and five sons, and is now living and dying alone in her backwoods Appalachian cabin. Enter Glorie (Hamilton), a hospice volunteer with an MBA from Harvard (and a wardrobe from Bloomingdale's), determined to care for the crotchety old lady despite her cantankerous objections. Grace's primitive living conditions and trust-in-the-Lord philosophy dismay the sophisticated Glorie, whose do-good resolve falters after she burns herself on Grace's wood-burning stove and confronts a rodent under the sink. The holy-rolling Grace, on the other hand, is appalled by Glorie's blasphemous language and feminist thinking. Gradually, these two very different people find common ground as they uncover each other's secrets and become open to mutual solace and support. Because Grant's character has the best lines and the choicest opportunity for laughs, she frequently steals the limelight, but Hamilton's less flamboyant persona is no less skillfully drawn. Designer Jeff McLaughlin's admirably detailed set, embellished with props by MacAndME, enfolds the drama with a rich atmospheric dimension. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through July 18. (818) 558-7000. (Deborah Klugman). Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 18. (818) 558-7000.

HAMLET It's anyone's guess what vision might have guided director Ellen Geer's fervent but unfocused, Medieval-dress version of Shakespeare's most baroque and psychologically nuanced tragedy. There's certainly little hint of the Oedipal undercurrents or political allegorizing that have been a mainstay of 20th-century productions. Nor is there much sign of the paralyzing conflict between faith in purpose and intellectual certainty, which traditionally drives its hero's famously agonized inaction. In the case of Mike Peebler's Hamlet, neither his mission nor its justness ever seems in doubt; Peebler attacks the role with the zeal and righteous wrath of the recently converted. Even his soliloquies are delivered at the audience as if from a pulpit. Gertrude (Melora Marshall) in turn appears more pissed off at her son's increasingly antic disposition than aggrieved by what it might imply about his sanity. Claudius (Aaron Hendry), by contrast, comes off as positively good-natured, a guy caught with his hand in the cookie jar rather than his fingerprints all over a nefarious regicide. Willow Geer is convincing as a feisty yet vulnerable Ophelia, though even here the method of her madness seems more a response to the murder of Polonius (a very broad Carl Palmer) than any jilting by Hamlet. Director Geer keeps it all moving at a fast clip, but some exasperatingly eccentric blocking divides the focus of too many critical turning points -- most egregiously in the mousetrap scene -- all but obliterating their dramatic purpose. (Bill Raden). Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., July 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 7, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 4 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 28, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 18, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 5 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 2, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.

IN THE HEIGHTS Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show's creator, composer-lyricist and Broadway star, reprises his lead role in the 2008 Tony winner. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru July 25. (213) 365-3500.

GO THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE

Stage Raw: Unknown Future, Theater on Seward Closes Its Doors

Photo

by Craig Schwartz

Martin McDonagh's carnage comedy, starring Star Trek's Chris

Pine. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 11, 7 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.;

thru Aug. 8. (213) 628-2772. See Theater feature

LIFE COULD BE A DREAM Writer-director Roger Bean's doo-wop jukebox musical. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (949) 497-2787.

GO LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE Ilene Beckerman's book, on which Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron based their "intimate collection of stories," is the kind you'd grab from the display near the register at a Barnes and Nobles, to serve as a dressy envelope for a birthday check to your goddaughter or an upgraded Mother's Day card. But if the recipient read it instead of tossing in onto a pile of similarly gifted minibooks, she'd find a classy little number, a J. Peterman catalog minus the pretentiousness. With sparse text and barebones sketches, Beckerman records her history through the clothes she and her female relatives wore. Director Jenny Sullivan constructs the stage version in much the same way: The star-studded ensemble wears black (there's an ode to the color, every woman's old faithful) while sitting in a straight line; and Carol Kane, who reads as Beckerman, handles the main prop, a "closet" full of the book's renderings situated on wire clothes hangers. But this is Nora Ephron, and chumminess quickly trumps austerity. The scenes themselves are ruminations on relationships thinly veiled as (mostly) funny riffs on clothes -- Tracee Ellis Ross almost runs away with the show every time the spotlight's hers but particularly so with "The Shirt." Kane, who must be one of the most endearing actors ever, dances her monologues' transitions so delicately and adroitly you can only marvel. There are a couple of moments ("The Bathrobe," "Brides") during which all but those with a particularly voracious emotional appetite will find themselves choking on the syrup. Fortunately, though, the Ephron sisters have nimbly stitched together the scenes so that there's far more head nodding than eye rolling. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 208-5454.

MASTER CLASS Terrence McNally's story of opera diva Maria Callas. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., July 18, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 6, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 28, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.

1776 Founding Fathers musical, book by Peter Stone, music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 18, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 2 p.m.; thru July 25. (562) 985-7000.

GO SOUTH PACIFIC So this tragic hero, a stern, sensible Princeton-educated U.S. Marine named Lt. Joseph Cable (Anderson Davis) finds himself in the South Pacific amidst a herd of guys from the U.S. Navy. He'd love to get some intel on what the Japs are up to, because World War II is still in play. On the nearby mystical island of Bali Ha'i (mystical because that's where all the young daughters of the local French families are hiding), Cable falls for a native daughter named Lait (Sumie Maeda), who looks about 12 years old, but she's sure a good kisser who gently strokes his hair -- and probably other parts as well. "I know what you're thinking," he chides skeptical onlookers; sure he does, because it is what we're thinking, too: You're a perv, dude. She's Cable's fantasy lover because she gazes at him adoringly and doesn't talk back. In fact, she doesn't talk at all, which is even better. Cable's anthem-in-song of love to barely pubescent Lait is "Younger Than Springtime," which is sort like an homage to the trafficking of children from exotic, faraway places. Rodgers' and Hammerstein's musical classic, presented by Lincoln Center Theater, is almost stunning for the window it offers onto the perverse America psyche, with its gardens of optimism, salvation complexes and sexual fantasies that come wrapped in a kind of national can-do solipsism. Michael Yeargan's classical storybook sets come with a backdrop of the expansive Pacific, idyllic and isolating, to unify the various settings and to conjure an American homeland far beyond the horizon. Barlett Sher's staging is a gift for a number of reasons. From this production, you can almost understand how we got into the quagmires of Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Furthermore, his terrific ensemble performs with a vivacity that's nonetheless bereft of the showboating that comes attached to so many musicals. Even with Christopher Gattelli's musical staging with choreography that sashays and snaps, there's a sobriety and sincerity that reveal the musical for exactly what it is, and the 1950s era of Americana that spawned it. Terrific leading performances by Rod Gilfry and Carmen Cusack as the expat Frenchman and U.S.Navy ensign/nurse who play out the boy-gets-girl, boy loses girl -- maybe they stick to the formula, maybe they don't. (Steven Leigh Morris)., $20-$120. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru July 17. (213) 628-2772.

THE THREE MUSKATEERS Alexandre Dumas' swashbuckler. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., July 17, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 18, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., July 24, 4 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 3, 3:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 24. (310) 455-3723.

NEW REVIEW GO THURGOOD

Stage Raw: Unknown Future, Theater on Seward Closes Its Doors

Photo by Carol Rosegg

There's much to recommend in George Stevens Jr.'s generic biodrama

about the legendary African-American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood

Marshall, whose career as an NAACP attorney culminated in successfully

arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that South Carolina's "separate

but equal" defense of racial segregation was unconstitutional. The play,

if one dares to call it that, is at its best during those trial scenes

in which the event's only actor, Laurence Fishburne reprising his

Broadway appearance, plays out scenes from the series of trials as both

both Marshall and his opponent, John W. Davis. Unfortunately, this

courtroom drama, which constitutes a fleeting if climactic segment of

the piece, is the only drama. The rest is a lecture by Marshall at

Howard University in which, for little apparent reason other than his

acceptance of a lecture fee, he reflects on his life and career.

Fishburne portrays him as both folksy and crusty, with nice physical

detail as the man ages, but this is all a bit like Hal Holbrook

portraying Mark Twain: completely dependent on wit, whimsy and legend,

while bypassing so much of the human being underneath. He refers to his

difficult character, but that darker side has no reason or context to

show itself, and that would be a show. What we get is a full dose of

Marshall's courage and rectitude, in which we're "challenged" to submit

to his thesis that segregation, lynchings and bigotry in general are

really bad things, and that they're not even constitutional. Okay, I'll

keep that in mind. What saves Leonard Foglia's production from tedium is

the history lesson itself, how in economic downturns we, like most

countries, turn on the spigot of racial hatred, which spews over so many

laws that have tried to contain it. Elaine J. McCarthy's projection

designs are a cinematic yet effective way to bring the last century into

our laps. It's an oddity but true here that an idea for a play can be

more powerful than the play itself. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte

Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7

p.m.; through Aug. 8. (310) 208-5454. (Steven Leigh Morris)

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE Music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (858) 481-2155.

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

THE ARMANDO SHOW A different comic/celeb each week provides the springboard for improv madness., $10. I.O. West, 6366 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Mon., 9 p.m.. (323) 962-7560.

NEW REVIEW AS THE GLOBE WARMS Solo

performer Heather Woodbury creates elaborate worlds. For her

performance, What Ever, Woodbury elasticized herself into 100

characters for a sprawling American epic. This follow-up is a

semi-political soap opera that will run a new installment every weekend

for three months, and, gauging by its launch, Woodbury's interested in

charting the rise and fall of the artistic class and the crystallization

of the divide between the two Americas. On the 4th of July 1985, a

cowed girl picks up a video camera and discovers she's an artist; 25

years later, she's dead and her brother is attempting to describe her

archive of tapes to a barbecue of gentrified Californian creatives who

deign to do their own sculpting rather than hiring interns for the

"dirty" work. On the other coast, a preacher, his shrewish Tea Party

wife and their daydreamy teen daughter fret about the BP oil spill and a

species of endangered frogs that might prevent them from expanding

their church's parking lot. Woodbury has little patience for both blues

and reds and loves to skewer the of hypocrisies of both camps. To help

her stay true to her own voice, she could use a director (none is

credited) to help her shape and simplify her frantic character changes;

she has a capable range of accents but spends scenes shifting wildly

around in her chair to make sure we're following who's who. Besides the

chair, the only prop onstage is a handycam that records each episode for

the internet and streams it live on a screen against the wall. It's

unclear yet if the distraction will prove purposeful, but what's certain

from the starting gate is that the enthusiastic Woodbury has energy for

miles (and months). Echo Curio, 1519 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.;

through Oct. 2 (no performance July 31). (213) 977-1279. (Amy Nicholson)

BETTER DAYS Whitmore Eclectic presents Richard Dresser's unemployment comedy. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, whitmoreeclectic.com. (818) 826-3609.

BREWSIE AND WILLIE World-premiere stage adaptation of Gertrude Stein's post-World War II novella, presented by CalArts' Center for New Performance in association with Poor Dog Group. 7th Floor Penthouse, 533 S. Los Angeles St., L.A.; Wed.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, brownpapertickets.com...

BROOKLYN, USA A true story based on real events of Murder Incorporated, the enforcement arm of America's crime syndicate. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (323) 469-3113.

GO DRUNK TALK Welcome to McSwiggins. For the motley assortment of career barflies, neighborhood hotheads, Walmart Casanovas and lovelorn alcoholics who make it their home away from home, the old-school Hollywood watering hole is the kind of place where everybody knows your name (or soon will, though you'll probably regret it long before last call). Playwright Lance Whinery's irresistibly goofy, one-act parody of the hallowed saloon sitcom takes the form into the kind of seedy, low-rent dramatic neighborhood where the denizens of Cheers were never drunk enough to tread. Its intentionally insipid plot, cliché-ridden characters and wincingly corny one-liners are frighteningly familiar. And in Thomas Blake's environmental staging, where the audience has ostensibly joined the regulars to toast the beloved bar's final night in business, the manner in which the actors shamelessly cheat their punch lines toward the spectators creates the impression of being a captive member of a live TV-studio audience. Then the other shoe drops: As the story and the drinking progress, and the characters' alcohol-fueled belligerence morphs into an increasingly maudlin and effusive bonhomie, Blake unleashes his cast of expert ad libbers and insult comics (standouts include David Alfano, Tobias Jelinek and Kim Estes) into the audience to harass and humiliate. But there won't be any hard feelings -- because in true sitcom logic any conflicts that erupt or are miraculously resolved will be mercifully nullified in the amnesiac haze of the morning's hangover. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, brownpapertickets.com/event/111874. (910) 367-6735. (Bill Raden). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, brownpapertickets.com/event/111874. (910) 367-6735.

FABRIC Company of Angels presents Henry Ong's play about Thai garment workers exploited in El Monte. Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (866) 811-4111.

FACEBOOK $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Wed., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

GO FOUR PLACES The family outing on display in Joel Drake Johnson's unsettling comedy resembles a gathering of ornery, wounded jackals. Siblings Warren (Tim Bagley) and Ellen (Roxanne Hart) motor to their parents' Chicago home to take their diminutive, gray-haired mother Peggy (Anne Gee Byrd) out for a what is presumably a pleasant lunch. At first blush, this seems innocent enough, but something about Ellen's painful, labored smile as she hugs the wheel, and Warren's cold, mummified expression, suggest that something is amiss. It isn't long before the moral underbelly of this clan emerges along with some ugly revelations. Mom's harmless exterior drips away with each rum and Coke she knocks back (and every trip to the bathroom, where she pees blood), and there emerges a subtly vicious female, a practiced manipulator who delights in tormenting her children with reminders of their lacerating miseries and failures. But an even darker secret surfaces concerning Peggy's alcoholic, invalid husband (who never appears onstage but is a towering presence, nevertheless), and rumors that she is abusing, and even attempting to murder him. The manner in which Drake tells this story -- blending humor and stark ugliness, while exploring themes of sibling rivalry, marital infidelity and even euthanasia -- is thoroughly engaging and held in sharp balance by director Robin Larsen. The characters are fully fleshed out, both in the writing and the performances, as disturbing for their and their vulnerabilities as for their anger. Rounding out a superb cast is Lisa Rothschiller. (Lovell Estell III)., (323) 960-4424. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25, roguemachine.com. (323) 422-6361.

GO THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING Better to die a man than be born a woman -- even a princess. Inspired by Mark Twain's short story about a girl raised as a boy in order to claim the crown, Jan O'Connor's brisk comedy embraces the sexism of its setting to great effect. Manhood means never apologizing, commands the Duke of Lesser Flugel (Warren Davis) to his daughter Basil (Riley Rose Critchlow), as he stuffs socks down her trousers. But if men are rocks, women are water, appearing to yield to their betters while impressing their will through patience and subtlety. When Basil is sent to his uncle King Heimlich's (Ross Gottstein) court as the rightful male heir, s/he's smashed by the wiles of the very femme Princess Clotilda (Whitton Frank), who with her nimbus of red curls is as ripe and soft as a tomato. The cast and casting are spot-on, as is Richard Tatum's direction, which allows us to peek at the layers underneath this superficially simple society. In less detailed hands, it'd simply be a funny, feminist trifle, but while Tatum plays up the humor, he also grasps the pathos in a tomboy forced to shun her own biology and to see her mother (Adriana Bate) as a cowed creature she deigns to visit every six years. Presented by Absolute Theatre and Full Circle Theatrics. (Amy Nicholson). El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 1...

GO THE GOOD WOMAN OF SETZUAN Gods are no help to man in Bertolt Brecht's bleak parable of a play (translated by Eric Bentley with music by Elizabeth Swados). The question Brecht poses: How does one stay a good person in a bad world? The hapless pivotal character Shen Te (Lauren Lovett) is a former prostitute, who uses her limited funds to help anyone who asks for it -- and everyone does. Her most shameless exploiter is her lover, Yang Sun (Benny Wills), who feels no compunction about draining her of her last penny. To protect herself, the lovesick Shen Te devises an alter ego: She poses, in male drag, as her tougher-minded capitalist cousin, Shui Ta, who takes over her affairs when she's "away." The ruse works for a time, but eventually Shen Te must abandon it and continue opting to do others' will even when it runs counter to her self-interest -- which it always does. Director Charles Otte has assembled a panoply of impressive technical and onstage talent to present an ambitious and artful staging that communicates the chaos, corruption and senseless suffering inherent in the playwright's vision. Most striking are Alex Wright and Dean Mora's sound design and original music, respectively (the music is live), and the arresting video imagery (Otte's design), which at times even simulates the town of Setzuan's drenching melancholic rain. The problem is that Brecht's epic theater deals with archetypes, and that's the plane on which Lovett and most of the ensemble so capably perform. The result is a dramatic piece worthy of respect rather than one to which I responded emotionally. (Deborah Klugman). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 17. (323) 882-6912.

NEW REVIEW GO GRIFFITH PARK SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL: OTHELLO

Stage Raw: Unknown Future, Theater on Seward Closes Its Doors

Photo by

Peter Alton

Shakespeare must've been orchestrating from his grave:

Three times during Independent Shakespeare Company's production of Othello

in Griffith Park, a pack of coyotes burst into laughter. Fitting that

nature should interject its opinion on that most futile of human

emotions that motorizes the action of Shakespeare's tragedy. "O, beware,

my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey'd monster, which doth mock the

meat it feeds on ..." the kingpin Iago ironically warns Othello.

Director Melissa Chalsma has elicited smart, sharp, funny

interpretations from her cast, notably Cameron Knight, Andre Martin,

David Melville and Bernadette Sullivan; and even with the distractions

that accompany an outdoor performance (bring blankets and sweaters), the

audience was rapt throughout. As Othello, Knight precisely navigates

the slippery slope into paranoia, gradually unraveling until he becomes

near-primal, the "black ram" Iago first described him as and now has led

him to be. Melville, a charismatic villain, transforms physically as

Iago, bounding confidently at Act 1 opens, only to become hunched and

shuffling as if shackled by mid-play. Shakespeare proves to have been a

cultural seer -- he set an African as commander-in-chief long before we

even considered the idea -- commenting on interracial marriage ages

before Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and promoting feminist

ideology centuries before Gloria Steinem became a Playboy Bunny.

Universal truths keep him relevant; here, it's how susceptible we are to

doubt and how jealousy erects a steel coffin around the mind. The

desire to exact justice after being provoked by senseless injustices

keeps Shakespeare satisfying, despite the inevitable high body count

that revenge can accrue. Here, justice is served by a woman choosing

truth over matrimonial obedience, while the revenge is as misguided as

it is pointless. Independent Shakespeare Co. and Griffith Park Free

Shakespeare Festival, Griffith Park, Old Zoo Picnic Area, 4730 Crystal

Springs Dr.; Thurs.-Sun., 7 p.m.; (818) 710-6306.  through August 1.

In rep with Much Ado About Nothing. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

THE HAPPY HAPPY SHOW April Hava Shenkman hosts this anything-goes comedy cabaret., free. El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.. (323) 668-0318.

HARLOW GOLD: EAST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. The Bordello, 901 E. First St., L.A.; Sun., 10 p.m.. (213) 687-3766.

HELLO OUT THERE AND THE DUSTBOWL REVIVAL: AN EVENING OF THEATER AND MUSIC William Saroyan's Hello Out There with music from The Dustbowl Revival. Bar Lubitsch, 7702 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Mon., Wed., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 4. (323) 654-1234.

HEPBURN SINGS! Kevin Dulude IS Katharine Hepburn!. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 18, plays411.com. (323) 654-0680.

I AM A TREE The title might make you think that writer-actor Dulcy Rogers' solo show is the autobiography of an Ent, one of the talking tree creatures from the Lord of the Rings series. However, the performer's opus is instead the elegiac tale of young Claire (Rogers) attempting to learn more about the mother she barely knew -- a high spirited creative type who lost her sanity years ago and has spent most of her life in a mental institution, leaving Claire to be raised by her coldly distant scientist father. Claire's search for information leads her to contact her three estranged aunts, a trio of flamboyant eccentrics, who regale her with the memory of their mother, which in turn prompts the daughter to make some unexpected discoveries about herself. Rogers' monologue frequently bogs down in cerebral metaphors and symbols, which leave the impression that the work is more involving as a literary read than as a performance piece. However, director Bob Koherr's intimate staging is unexpectedly effective at evoking the atmosphere of a children's story -- including the three wise aunts who seem right out of A Wrinkle in Time and a portrait of contemporary Manhattan that's both enchanting and timeless. The problem is that the writing opts for arch coolness over any passionate feeling that might involve us in the story. Rogers plays all the characters with commendable versatility, but she's unable to enliven the monologue's drier elements. (Paul Birchall). Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 17. (323) 962-0046.

I'M AN ACTOR, THEY DON'T GET IT Written and directed by Essence.com blogger Tiffany Black. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru July 25. (323) 465-4446.

NEW REVIEW I'M NOT HERE ANYMORE W. Colin

McKay has cast his play in the form of a mystery. Josh (Dayton Knoll) is

a former GI who has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and

suffers from combat trauma upon his return home. He has frightening

flashbacks, which can drive him to violence, and he's haunted by two

people (or are they hallucinations?) from his time in the Gulf. Kim

(Casey Fitzgerald) is a girl who was killed by a roadside bomb, and

Eddie (Sal Landi) is his former buddy, whom he believes aims to kill him

if he reveals dark secrets about his time in the combat zone. There are

also two doctors, Mel (Brian Connors) and David (Dig Wayne), who are at

odds about Josh's treatment. But there are too many mysteries, and too

few reliable "facts" for us to know precisely what's going on. Josh is

clearly an unreliable narrator, the two ghosts/hallucinations have

agendas of their own, and so perhaps do the doctors. We can never be

certain whether Josh is dogged by psychotic fantasies, or telling

uncomfortable truths the army wants to keep under wraps by committing

him to a mental hospital. Good work from the actors and director Al

Bonadies, but the script is perplexing. Pan Andreas Theatre, 5125

Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., through Aug. 28.

Produced by The Actorhood. (323) 468-8062 or TheActorHood.com. (Neal

Weaver)

KEEP IT CLEAN Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.

GO LEIRIS/PICASSO "We try not to have so many guests. It disturbs what's left of the neighbors," says Michel as he stumbles around his Paris home in the dark, falling down stairs, knocking over crudités, and scalding himself on a teakettle. It's all rather amusing ... until you realize that it's 1944 and there's a Nazi patrol outside. This just the sort of dark humor that characterizes writer-director David Jette's farcical take on an actual evening at the house of Michel Leiris (Michael Bulger) when members of the French Resistance produced Pablo Picasso's play, Desire Caught by the Tail. The play itself is nonsensically awful (but oh, how the man could paint), so Jette has instead written about the circumstances surrounding its production, a sort of play without a play. In it, Leiris, his wife Zette (Jenny Byrd), Albert Camus (Tyler Jenich), Jean-Paul Sartre (Patrick Baker), Simone de Beauvoir (Amy K. Harmon), and Picasso's mistress Dora Maar (Melissa Powell) scramble to set up while they wait for the master. Besides their own petty but hilarious squabbles, they also have to deal with a Nazi (Joseph L. Roberts) who keeps popping up, as well as the leader of the resistance, Sam Beckett (Dan Gordon). Jette's direction keeps all the moving parts well synchronized as the actors enter and exit Juliana de Abreu's well-designed, multi-door set. The ensemble is strong overall, though Baker's over-the-top bombastic caricature of Sartre and Bulger's sincerity as the put-upon host stand out. And while the work isn't historically accurate, it succeeds because, as Camus says, sometimes "happiness feels better than truth." Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24. (213) 290-2782, BrimmerStreet.org (Mayank Keshaviah). Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24. (213) 389-3856.

GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop jukebox musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes), with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz, and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield, the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him. Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 25. (323) 960-4412.

THE LOST TOMB OF KING SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv, directed by Karn Maruyama. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

MARY LYNN SPREADS HER LEGS Writer-performer Mary Lynn Rajskub cruises the low road in this raunchy obstreperous one-woman show about childbirth and motherhood, directed and developed by Amit Ittelman. Adopting a pugnacious in-your-face persona at the top, the performer first describes -- then graphically illustrates -- how she abandoned her intellectual self to metamorphose into a fun-loving hottie. An unexpected pregnancy alters her life -- though not her smug irreverence leveled nonstop at doctors, midwives, family members, producers and fans (all of whom she portrays). When her colicky child (also depicted by Rajskub) refuses her milk, she's filled with fantasies of infanticide. Straddling standup, Rajskub's performance contains a humor that hits home with a strata of her audience, while irritating or offending others. Her skills are without question: the expressiveness of her body language or the split-second changes in countenance convey a shift from one character to the next. Notwithstanding these qualities and some entertaining moments, there's not much that's witty or insightful or ribald about this material. It would be helpful if there were some likable character or sentiment to counterbalance the story's bitter, hollow message. (Deborah Klugman)., $20. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 27. (323) 666-4268.

MEETING OF MINDS If you don't remember who Steve Allen was, here's a primer: The bespectacled writer, radio personality, TV talk and game show host (he was the first The Tonight Show host), musician and composer ("This Could Be the Start of Something Big") was ahead of his time -- Bill Maher, David Letterman, Johnny Carson and David Frost rolled into one. He asked guests hard questions, was book-smart, inimitably witty and took chances. One chance that paid off and set a precedent for intelligent TV (now there's an oxymoron) was his PBS show Meeting of Minds, which consisted of teleplays featuring roundtable "interviews" with historical figures such as Cleopatra, Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun and Plato. The show ran from 1977 to 1981 and became hugely popular as an entertaining and riveting way to learn about history. Now, you can witness live performances of Allen's actual scripts in a revival of the original shows. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Third Sunday of every month, 7 p.m.. (323) 666-4268.

GO MORE LIES ABOUT JERZY This West Coast premiere of David Holmes' fascinating drama about whether truth lies in facts or in fiction hangs on the title performance of Jack Stehlin as Jerzy Lesnewski -- obviously based on the late Polish novelist-screenwriter Jerzy Kosinski, and the scandals surrounding what he eventually claimed was his fictional Holocaust memoir, The Painted Bird. Either by omission or design, Kosinski neglected to clarify at the outset that the memoir was anything but autobiography -- until, according to Holmes, Poles from his past (Jordan Lund and Cameron Meyer) showed up in New York, peeved that the famous author was discrediting the very people who had protected young Jewish Jerzy from the Nazis. Aside from a swirl of wives and mistresses (Meyer and Kristin Malko) orbiting the womanizing author, the play drives along the investigation by journalist Arthur Bausley (Adam Stein) -- once a fan and eventually an investigator -- clearly troubled by Jerzy's continuing penchant to play fast and loose with the facts. They won't ask if he lying, Arthur goads him, They're only going to ask why is he lying. Holmes plays just as nimbly with the facts as Kozinski did, which would be an affront if Holmes were really out to discredit his protagonist, as the Village Voice did in 1982. (That discrediting is a central issue in the play, which anachronistically unfolds between 1972 and 1974.) In the Voice, Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith published an article accusing the five-time best-selling author not only of having denied co-authorship or editor credit to the English "translators," who may have actually written The Painted Bird, based on Kozinski writings in Polish, but they also claimed that Kozinski plagiarized his short story (made into film), Being There, from 1932 Polish best seller The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma -- which few people outside Poland knew about. Holmes' Jerzy has a potent defense and an almost tragic downfall -- made all the more so by Stehlin's gregarious, petulant and charismatic interpretation, with just the right tinge of Polish dialect. Argues Jerzy: Truth does not lie in facts but in symbols and myths and legends -- an argument he could have lifted from W.B. Yeats, who said much the same. Holmes' journalist tries to psychoanalyze why Jerzy would make stuff up so habitually -- perhaps a war trauma or something -- and Jerzy ridicules that process as petty psychoanalysis. The degree to which Jerzy may be right is the degree to which this play gets very interesting, veering from its dangerous trajectory of celebrity bashing. David Trainer directs an efficient production with enough momentum to compensate for its tangled relationships. But it's the play, and Stehlin, that are stage center. And speaking of truth, they probably shouldn't clink those plastic champagne tumblers when toasting. That rings even less true than many of Jerzy's excuses. (Steven Leigh Morris). Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (213) 389-9860.

MOTHER Mary-Beth Manning's one-woman show about a complex mother/daughter relationship. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way, L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru July 30, plays411.com/mother. (323) 960-7714.

MY PENIS: IN AND OUT OF TROUBLE Antonio Sacre's solo performance piece. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 5, brownpapertickets.com/event/118963. (800) 838-3006.

NANO NATION Poor Dog Group's investigation of the American Myth. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., July 16, 9:30 p.m.; Sat., July 24, 10 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/119059. (800) 838-3006.

THE OBLIVION SERIES Justine Warrington's look at the modern world as seen by the modern woman. Plus: comedian Ruthy Otero's one-woman show Crazy Is What Crazy Does. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 18. (323) 465-4446.

OKLAHOMA! With its spectacular 1943 Broadway debut, Rodgers and Hammerstein's immortal classic redefined the book musical. By seamlessly weaving its deceptively sunny songbook into a comic-romantic libretto stitched with dark threads of violence and sexual yearning, the show's complex fabric of tension-teasing counterpoints (driven by the Americana vitality of Agnes de Mille's folk-derived choreography) set new benchmarks for sophistication and box-office success. That storied history may come as a surprise to anyone whose introduction to Oklahoma! comes via director Robert Marra's clumsy and dismally one-dimensional staging. The tone is set the moment Derrick McDaniel's serviceable lights come up on Craig Pavilionis' non-sequitur jumble of strewn hay and bulky, adobe-looking set pieces, and costumes whose provenance looks more mid-'90s Super Thrift than something "designed" by Ann McMahan. Individual performances range from passable (Travis Dixon's Curly, Jean Altadel's Laurey) to overly broad (Maura Smith's Aunt Eller, Jillian Gomez's Ado Annie) to utterly forgettable (Matt Dorio's Ali Hakim, James Petrillo's Andrew Carnes). While choreographer Tania Possick pulls off a creditable echo of de Mille in the rousingly acrobatic "box social" dance number, the lush, emotional grandeur of Rodgers' score mostly eludes the grasp of musical director Greg Haake's tinny-sounding live band and the ensemble's uneven vocal abilities. The one exception is Jay Rincon's menacing Jud Fry and the brooding sympathy he brings to his solo on "Lonely Room." MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 18. (323) 960-7735. A Musical Theatre of Los Angeles production. (Bill Raden). MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 18. (323) 960-7735.

GO OPUS Because classical music can be such a sublime art form, one tends to regard those musicians as inhabiting a more celestial sphere than the rest of us. Playwright and classically trained violist Michael Hollinger confutes that notion with this percipient drama, which examines the political and emotional fracas within a string quartet. In Hollinger's canny script, the tensions generated among members of a prominent musical group have been exacerbated by an affair between two of them: Elliot (Christian Lebano), a domineering egotist with little tolerance for opposition; and Dorian (Daniel Blinkoff), a supersensitive artist with a history of emotional problems. When Dorian up and quits prior to a prestigious gig at the White House, he is replaced by Grace (Jia Doughman), a conscientious novice with tremendous talent and the inner aplomb to withstand Elliot's needling and increasingly truculent demands. Directed by Simon Levy, the drama begins with a studied manner before launching into full dynamism, as the particulars of the players' dilemmas and entanglements come into focus. In a solid ensemble, Doughman is noteworthy for her character's impeccable truth; likewise Cooper Thornton is highly effective as Alan, the down-to-earth second violinist who reacts with growing consternation and dismay to snowballing events. The performers mime their concerts in admirable sync (sound design is by Peter Bayne, with input from musical advisers Roy Tanabe and Larry Sonderling). Complemented by designer Ken Booth's lighting, Frederica Nascimento's backdrop, with its cubes in autumnal colors, seems reflective of the quartet's rich but cloistered world. (Deborah Klugman). Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (323) 663-1525.

PHIL THE VOID: THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY Phil van Hest's one-man philosophical comedy. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 7, philvanhest.com. (866) 811-

4111.

PLAY DATES Sam Wolfson's comedy of the sexes. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, plays411.com. (323) 960-7776.

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.

NEW REVIEW REDHEAD CUBAN HAUSFRAU HUSBAND

Stage Raw: Unknown Future, Theater on Seward Closes Its Doors

Photo

by Fletcher Rhoden

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were

pioneer celebrities who set the standard for clean, white-bread

television comedy. They also were one of Hollywood's original power

couples amassing a fortune from ownership of their own studios. But in

his self-described musical homage to the I Love Lucy show,

writer-director Fletcher Rhoden fall short of telling their story or of

telling any story that's the least bit compelling. The herky-jerky

script contains no semblance of narrative cohesiveness or flow, though

it comes spiced here and there with historic details about Ms. Ball's

life. Performer Joan Elizabeth Kennedy fails to channel Lucy

convincingly, and is consistent only in singing off-key. Ditto for Derek

Rubiano, whose Cuban accent wobbles in a remedial performance. Rhoden's

music and lyrics are competent though without a hint of any

Latin-American origins or influence in the music. Rhoden's direction

does little to shore up the holes in his script. Jodi Skeris and Michael

Anthony Nozzi are presumably standing in for other actors as the zany

neighbors, but that's hard to tell from the program. Mount Hollywood

Theater, 4607 Prospect Ave., Hollywood: Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Sept

4. (323) 667-9113. (Lovell Estell III)

ROMEO AND JULIET: THE COMEDY Knightsbridge Theatre's 1970s take on Shakespeare's tragedy, "including a disco dance-off to the death.". Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru July 25. (323) 667-0955.

SEX, DREAMS AND SELF-CONTROL Kevin Thornton's one-man show about growing up gay. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Third Tuesday of every month, 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 17. (323) 969-2530.

SEX, RELATIONSHIPS AND SOMETIMES . . . LOVE Monologues on all of the above, by Joelle Arqueros. Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Sun., 6, 7:30 & 9 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (323) 769-5566.

SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED Presented by Shakespeare by the Sea. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 512-6030.

NEW REVIEW GO SONGS AND DANCES OF IMAGINARY

LANDS

Stage Raw: Unknown Future, Theater on Seward Closes Its Doors

Photo by Michael B

Harrington

Pretend that you are a 5-year-old at an art museum: The

concepts of line, perspective, medium and tone mean nothing to you. In

fact, if imposed on your experience, they would only detract from it.

But despite your age, on a visceral level you are seduced by the

vibrancy of color and the familiarity of shape. In the same way, this

site-specific contemporary opera, developed by director and

co-choreographer O-Lan Jones, resonates with sight, sound and spectacle,

despite the difficulty in imposing traditional meaning on it. Where

once Mazdas were sold, now theater is happening, and Jones serves up a

feast for the senses, along with musical director David O, set and

costume designer Snezana Petrovic, and a cast and crew of dozens of

artists. The feast consists of a series of songs, dances, short scenes

and videos that thematically interweave elements of both human history

and the stages of our lives. Depending on the price of their tickets,

audience members can either ride in "trains" or walk and carry their

folding chairs between performance venues in the 25,000-square-foot

space. In addition to the obvious commentary on social class, this

unique seating arrangement never lets you become restless. And though

the vignettes are uneven, what impresses most are Petrovic's imaginative

use of the space and the coordination required to keep so many moving

parts working together harmoniously. 8810 Washington Blvd., Culver City;

Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through July 18. (323) 655-2410,

overtoneindustries.org. (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO ST. NICHOLAS Irish playwright Conor McPherson mirthfully paints a theater critic as a bloodsucker in his early mono-drama, which receives a standout revival by director Scott Paulin. Michael McGee does the honors as an anonymous, ego-bitten and self described "well-paid hack" (i.e. drama critic), who becomes a willing procurer for a clan of vampires. "People were afraid of me," he quips, reflecting on his power to make or break careers, with a pen he joyfully wielded like an envenomed rapier. However, the utter corruption of his existence finds its fullest expression when he falls for an actress he encountered at a performance of Salome. Unbeknownst to the poor fellow, she is a member of a vampire clan, and it isn't long before he is willingly luring unsuspecting victims into their den, where they are plowed with drink, revelry and relieved of their blood, as well as all memories of the encounter. Call it vampire light, void of Stoker but with a touch of Anne Rice. McPherson's tinkering with the vampire myth is a clever literary sleight of hand, but the ease of his narrative and its animated density, the shades of humor and poignancy, and McGee's textured performance make for a terrific outing. (Lovell Estell III). SFS Theatre, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru July 24. (323) 463-7378.

NEW REVIEW GO A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT A TALE TOLD BY AN

IDIOT  A new L.A.-based ensemble called Psittacus Productions is

extending a performance of A Tale Told by an Idiot from the

Hollywood Fringe at Son of Semele Theater. It's a mash up of

Shakespeare's Macbeth that includes the character of Guy Fawkes -

which suggests an influence from Bill Cain's Equivocation. Every

scene of the hour-long piece is a plot against somebody's life or a 

murder, starring - among the very strong ensemble - the lighting plot of

designer Dan Weingarten. The action unfolds behind a scrim and is lit

entirely with pin-lights. Some on the floor, some held by the

performers. The effect is for the entire play, we see only faces, and

shifting eyes, and shadows creeping across scrims and walls. The three

witches (Casey Fitzgerald, Madeline Hamer and Liz Saydah) appear in

masks, and all we see are those masks, or three hands crawling up a

wall, or feet tremulously stepping. In some scenes we just see two

daggers, barely illuminated, and little more. With composer Graham

Galatro's composition, the effect is mesmerizing, culminating in the

closing line, that comes in Macbeth right before the more famous

"Tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing."

The line that lingers is that line's direct predecessor : "Life's but a

walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the

stage and then is heard no more." And this is the lucid essence of the

piece. Fine performances also by Casey Brown, Louis Butelli, Lisa

Carter, Daryl Crittenden, Darin Dahms and Chas LiBretto. Robert Richmond

directs. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25.  (646) 425-4615. (Steven Leigh Morris)

TAXI STORIES David O'Shea recounts his years as a New York City taxi

driver. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., July 16, 8

p.m.; Sat., July 24, 5 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.. (800) 838-3006.

THREE SISTERS AFTER CHEKHOV Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble presents

Mustapha Matura's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's classic. Lost Studio,

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

lowerdepththeatreensemble.org. (800) 838-3006.

GO T-O-T-A-L-L-Y In Kimleigh Smith's one-person show, she portrays herself as a 17-year-old virgin, an ingratiating cheer-leader who speaks in Valley-girl cadences where every sentence is peppered with "totally." She endures a gang rape and the eventual recovery of her sexuality that got shut down after the attack. This is the formula for what could have been the worst one-woman show ever seen; it's actually among the best, thanks entirely to Smith's super-human vivacity, her blistering sense of humor, in which, with considerable physical heft, she performs those ridiculous high school cheers in a teensy, revealing skirt with a mania that crosses deep into mockery. She is without shame, and she's earned that right. There's not a trace of self-pity; rather, super-hero determination. And when she details her technique for seducing a lover, the result is one of the most erotic and funny scenes you're going to find on any stage, anywhere. Paula Killen directs, and obviously knows exactly what she's doing. (Steven Leigh Morris). Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., July 18, 7 p.m.; Sat., July 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 7 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 7 p.m.. (323) 952-1632.

GO TRACERS Thirty years after its Los Angeles debut, writer John DiFusco's antiwar drama retains its relevance and power. Written collaboratively in the 1970s by DiFusco and seven other Vietnam vets, and directed by Christina Howard with insight and skill, it portrays the trauma of young military recruits plucked from mainstream American life and thust -- inadequately trained and poorly equipped -- into the nightmare of combat. Howard, displaying a metaphysical perspective, stages the production on a deep, cavernous proscenium. Prior to curtain, an intense, almost suffocating, scent of incense permeates the theater; meanwhile, for perhaps 20 minutes, the six "trainees" jog in military unison, the rhythms of their booted tread being ominous and haunting. When at last the performers do, individually, speak, it's in a darkness resourcefully illuminated by handheld flashlights; indeed, throughout the play, the lighting design (consultant Tiger Reel) registers as a quintessential element of the spectacle. The talents of Howard's adept ensemble collectively emerge in a sequence depicting the recruits' initial training under the command of an abusive drill sergeant (the terrific Tucker Smallwood), who addresses them as "maggots" while forcing them to undergo arbitrary punitive discipline. Once in Vietnam, the men medicate their brutalized psyches with dope, alcohol and infantile horseplay -- understandable given their tasks, which include sorting through body parts to try to match limbs with torsos. While not every component of this production is unimpeachable -- the sound design (Howard) and vocal sound track, effective in part, can be intrusive -- the imaginative production is compelling. (Deborah Klugman). L.A. Fringe Theatre, 929 E. Second St., Studio 105, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 14. (213) 680-0392.

WAITING FOR GODOT Revelation Theater presents Samuel Beckett's existentialist classic. The Black Box Theater, 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31, theblackboxtheater.org...

ZOMBIENCE! "An Improvised Zombie Musical," directed by Patrick Bristow. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru July 30, brownpapertickets.com/event/102759. (800) 838-3006.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUTATED IN THE VALLEYS

GO ALL MY SONS If even a thread of a silver lining can be found in the BP gulf oil-spill madness, it might just be that the appalling incident has breathed new life into Arthur Miller's powerful tragedy about the twin evils of reckless capitalism and false sanctimony. Director Kiff Scholl's powerful and well-acted production never overtly channels the spill -- but the parallels between the cabal of greedy oil-company CEOs and the dark heart of corruption that lie at the center of the family in Miller's play are apparent. The play concerns seemingly genial war-parts manufacturer Joe (Mark Belnick), whose family life is splintering ostensibly over the fact that his beloved but emotionally fragile wife, Kate (CaroleAnne Johnson), is unwilling to give up believing that their son Larry, dead in a war plane crash, is still alive. Meanwhile Joe's other son Chris (Nicholas S. Williams) is plotting to marry beautiful Annie (Lauren Dobbins Webb), the daughter of Joe's former partner, who's serving a prison term for sending faulty plane parts to the front. Of course, the real truth of how those faulty parts got to the front is far more horrible -- and ultimately tragic to all concerned. Staged in a theater so small it often seems to creak at the seams of the play's aching themes of rage, disgust and greed, Scholl's sturdy production is unflinching, with the intimacy only adding to its beauty. The ensemble's vivid and psychologically nuanced characters lead to the feeling that we "know" we "know" these people, like friends -- from Belnick's backslappin', bonhomie bloat-spouting Joe, whose "big man" attitude is quickly abraded into weasel-eyed oiliness, to Johnson's beautifully fragile but increasingly darkly complicit Kate. Webb's sweet, then fierce turn as Annie becomes surprisingly complex as she ultimately wields a weapon that puts the final nail in the villain's coffin -- while Williams' shift from dorky rich-boy idealist to ferocious avatar of justice is strikingly powerful. (Paul Birchall). Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25. (323) 960-4420.

AMADEUS Written as Theophilus (from the Greek) on his birth certificate, Mozart's middle name can be interpreted as either "lover of God" or "loved by God." Antonio Salieri clearly believed the latter, and his jealousy of Mozart fuels the drama in Peter Shaffer's 1979 award-winning play. As court composer, Salieri (Peter Swander) has the favor of Emperor Joseph II (David Robert May) and admires Mozart's music -- until he meets the young prodigy. Mozart's (Patrick Stafford) sexuality and vulgarity drive the devout Catholic wild, and as Salieri can't reconcile the philistine with the ethereal music he creates, he becomes determined to destroy Mozart. In that quest, Swander often speaks of passion, yet it rarely feels as if his character possesses the passion his words suggest. Part of this may have been director August Viverito's desire for a slow build, even though it does eventually pay off in Act 2. Stafford's Mozart, on the contrary, is id perfectly personified, with occasional glimpses of the genius hiding behind the schoolboy pranks. Danielle Doyen, who plays his wife, Constanze, pairs well with Stafford, and like the rest of the cast, is capable. However, her 1980s, Madonna-style outfits, along with Mozart's gold pants and the emperor's raspberry zoot suit, are questionable choices by designer Shon LeBlanc. While for Salieri "a note of music is either right or it's wrong," for me the show had a pleasant melody but not one that stuck with me for long. (Mayank Keshaviah). Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 31. (800) 838-3006.

GO ARCADIA When sophisticated, rapid-fire dialogue is whizzing about the stage, mathematical and scientific principles are being dissected in the language of those who dissect them professionally, and the past is bleeding into the present, the question is not if, but when, your head will start to spin. Set in an English estate in both 1809 and present day, Tom Stoppard's exploration of the seeming dichotomies of chaos and order, science and art, head and heart, might err on the side of the cerebral -- thrillingly yet too bewilderingly -- if it weren't so ripe with the great equalizers: humor and sex. Director Barbara Schofield notes that the play's themes are all based on passion, and her staging arches its back toward reflecting such. Just as you begin to follow one of Stoppard's intricate, essential arguments down the intellectual rabbit hole, Schofield yanks you back by the gut. The logical Valentine (Paul Romero) casually posits the supremacy of science to Bernard (a combustible Benjamin Burdick), who preaches poetry in response; the scene immediately following, between T.J. Marchbank's smoldering Septimus and Kendra Chell's commanding Lady Croom, so pulses with lust restrained by the thinnest of threads, that when Septimus burns a letter, you feel helpless to stem the flush spreading throughout your own body. The cast is uniformly good, though the frequent shouting matches repeatedly reach a decibel level that quickly overwhelms such an intimate theater. Regardless that they skip so nimbly through the fascinating maze Stoppard's constructed is a relief, and reason enough to go. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru July 31. (626) 256-3809.

THE BAKER'S OVEN West Coast premiere of Christopher Goodwin's dramatic thriller. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 7. (818) 202-4120.

FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF Ntozake Shange's 1975 choreopoem. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 7, plays411.com/forcoloredgirls. (818) 990-2324.

THE GOLDEN AURORA Steve Fechter's story of love between a man and man's best friend. Alliance Repertory Company, 3204 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (818) 284-6799.

HURRICANE SEASON 2010 Seventh annual competition/festival of short plays. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (818) 508-3003.

IN & OUT: THE U.S. OF ALIENATION Alienation World premiere of David Wally's dramedy about human connection. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (866) 811-4111.

INSIDE PRIVATE LIVES Peek into the private lives of public personas in Kristin Stone Entertainment's interactive theater piece. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (866) 811-4111.

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

GO KING LEAR The old loon hasn't looked so good in some time. Bart DeLorenzo's staging for Antaeus Company's Classicsfest 2010 comes with two casts -- "The Fools" and "The Madmen." I saw the "The Madmen" and must reserve comment on the uberconcept until checking out "The Fools" this coming week. No need to reserve any enthusiasm for Harry Groener's Lear. Though his silver beard still doesn't help Groener look a stitch younger than 60 (Lear is supposed to be 80-plus), his gives a magnetic interpretation filled with surprises. But first, he renders the words sparklingly, with clarity and sensitivity. When his Fool (JD Cullum, also great -- nimble and smart without being a smart-ass) grills with his riddles, Groener's Lear listens and responds with a childlike innocence that is a cloak for growing despondency. And it's that sojourn toward spiritual oblivion that Groener carves with such intrigue, step by step, with alternate bursts of rage and defeat. He's magnificent and ably matched by Allegra Fulton's richly textured Goneril, who conjures memories of Estelle Parsons, mingled with the late, local actress Pamela Gordon. Gregory Itzin's Kent is grand, as is Nick Cagle's Oswald. Less so some of the supporting players, who render comparatively callow and shallow renditions compared to the masters at the helm. DeLorenzo stages a modernist interpretation that starts with Napoleanic military chic (costumes by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg) -- all those boots stretching up to the thigh! -- and evolves to contemporary desert warfare attire. No, this is not an imposition or a gimmick. It fits snugly into the play's expedition into the surreal, in a work about aging and senility, the blessings and curses of time. DeLorenzo's staging suggests that what is unfolding is the history of our times, through ellipses of power and its abuses. He's on firm terra ether. (Steven Leigh Morris). Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 12. 818-506-1983.

MUSIC OUT OF NOWHERE (A LOVESTORY OUT OF THE 1930s) A nostalgic look back at the Great Depression. Music, lyrics, and story by Bruce Lloyd Kates. Unitarian Universalist Church, 12355 Moorpark St., Studio City; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru July 17. (818) 769-5911.

PATRIOTISM UNLEASHED Sketch-comedy show, produced by Theatre

Unleashed. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;

Thurs., 9 p.m.; Sat., 10:45 p.m.; thru July 31...

GO PRAYING SMALL Clifford Morts' intelligent drama about one man's struggle with alcoholism speaks compellingly of love, loss, the quest for self-forgiveness. An alcoholic named Sam (Morts) with a good job and a loving wife (Tara Lynn Orr) loses both. Filled with rage but unwilling to seek help, he's finally picked up by the police -- and only then does he begin his long, slow climb back to sobriety and self-respect. Relayed in nonlinear flashback, the play rivets our attention through the depth and breadth of the central character, an intrepid, introspective Everyman with a strong sense of irony, who references Thomas Wolfe and repeatedly mulls why it is that one can't go home again. There's humor here, too. The likable Morts delivers a dynamic performance, supported by a strong ensemble that includes Rob Arbogast as Sam's former drinking buddy, a sad fellow who sinks to the dregs of existence and never finds his way out. Designer Lacey Alzec's black, minimalist set comes off as unduly oppressive, while Coby Chasman-Beck's lighting effectively underscores the play's various shifts. Victor Warren directs. (Deborah Klugman). NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 18. (818) 508-7101.

GO PRISCILLA'S PERFECT DAY Young Priscilla Periwinkle (Courtney DeCosky) has an annoying but good-hearted little brother Billy (Matt Valle), whose idea of a great time is to belittle his sibling with puerile jokes, such as calling her "Prisilly," until she's at boiling point. They find themselves at their great aunt's house in Maine for a family vacation with Mom and Dad (Natascha Aldridge and Stephen Simon), like in a parody of Father Knows Best. They also brought along the semi-articulate family pooch, Roscoe (Victor Isaac, in brown fur and floppy ears). Mom really runs things, though Dad is whimsically smug enough to persuade you that he knows what he's doing. And on this first day of the clan's getaway, it starts pouring rain. Priscilla likes to draw with crayons and, lo and behold, she finds crayons with magical properties to transport herself, along with Billy and Roscoe, to a land of her imagining, a bucolic utopia depicted in Chris Winfield and Monica Martin's mural of portable panels. When Billy gets hungry, Priscilla simply draws Billy's favorite pancakes, and they materialize. This could be described as a family musical about the Possibilites of Art (book by Diana Martin, songs by Richard Levinson, who accompanies the actors on a spinet), but that's probably not in the minds of the kiddies packed into the theater on Saturday mornings, who really respond to the the musical's arbitrary but effective element of danger, the Loch Ness Lobster. (For no apparent reason, bright red claws appear intermittently from the wings, like in a parody of Jaws.) There's also an odd local denizen named Mr. Berrymore (Brian Wallis) and a Clam Chorus (Sarah Coker, Ben Freiberger, Kaylena Mann and Martin). The Clams sing/plead for their lives before a clambake. Levinson's songs stick around after the closing curtain, particularly "Pancakes for Roscoe," which gets reprised in a curtain-call sing-along. A bit slow going at the outset, the musical finds its stride under Jeremy Aldridge's staging, thanks largely to the delightful and accomplished performances, and the magical qualities of those crayons, which enhance the familiar, almost generic family with a streak of wonder. Produced in association with Catawba Club Productions. (Steven Leigh Morris). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 a.m.; thru July 17. (818) 700-4878.

THIS WAY TO YOUR RITUAL LOBOTOMY Felix Pire's new one-man stage comedy. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24, ticketleap.com. (818) 766-9100.

TWELFTH NIGHT Shakespeare isn't usually the hottest ticket in town (that honor currently belongs to In the Heights), but that's more the fault of buttoned-up high school standards that refuse literature teachers the freedom to explore and explain the rampant bustier-and-trouser unbuttoning in the First Folio. Director Jeff Soroka continues modern theater's attempt to unclothe the plays in Theatre Unleashed's production of the comedy that, typical of Shakespeare, derives its plot from mistaken identity. Sprawled drunkenly between two of his harem at the start of the show, Shawn Cahill's Orsino is one of the most animalistic incarnations of a Shakespearean character in recent memory -- the audience smells before it sees him. Yet he rises both to the heightened language and demystifies it with a bold physicality; Darci Dixon, as Viola, has a fine command of the language, but her energy is so contained and her reactions so muted, she seems to be performing for the camera as opposed to the stage. Fortunately, the show's jesters -- Thomas W. Ashworth as Feste, Paul Bond as Sir Toby Belch, and Jim Martyka as Sir Andrew Aguecheek -- are respectively as witty, bawdy and stupid as intended; and Noah James Butler's excellent turn as the fraught Malvolio provides the prissy tautness to Cahill's alpha-male dispassion. Though Soroka's eye is on upping the sexual ante with his staging, unintentionally comical modern-dancing belly dancers and a boring, throwaway final scene (ah, Shakespeare's ever-problematic wrap-ups) leave the audience answering the eternal conjugal question, so often inspired by the Bard, with the reply: "No, that wasn't so good for me." (Rebecca Haithcoat). Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31, theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.

NEW REVIEW GO TWO PLAYS BY YUKIO MISHIMA

Stage Raw: Unknown Future, Theater on Seward Closes Its Doors

Photo by

Yukata Takeuchi

Perhaps most notorious in the West for his sensational,

1970 suicide by seppuku, controversial poet-novelist Yukio Mishima was

also a playwright of both contemporary dramas and works blending the

modern with traditions drawn from the classical Japanese stage. This

fascinating evening features two of Mishima's modernized Noh texts from

1956 (translated by Donald Keene) that play like a Gothic mix of

Tennessee Williams and Edgar Allen Poe. With Hanjo, directed by

Aramazd Stepanian, Mishima takes the theme of pure love into the

tortured extreme of the Noh madness play. Jitsuko (Hiroko Imai) is a

40-year-old painter who, though she has never found love, has discovered

the perfect embodiment of it as a subject for her paintings in Hanako

(Kazumi Zatkin), a beautiful geisha driven insane by the agony of

futilely waiting for the return of true love Yoshio (Yutaka Takeuchi).

In The Lady Aoi, Toshi Toda directs Mishima's surreal twist on

the vengeful ghost play. Hikaru (Toshiya Agata) arrives at a strange

clinic to find his sedated young wife, Aoi (Miho Ando), tormented by

"the ghost of a libido," the still-burning love/hate of Hikaru's jilted

former lover (Fay Kato). Toda also directs a traditional, short Kyogen

interlude piece, the farcical Hana-Ko. Though the production

has its share of rough edges, a delightful cast and supple direction

(accented by Chris Edinjikilian's misty scenic painting and Sandy

Gabucan's effective lights) neatly illuminate Mishima's dark and

uncompromising obsessions. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road,

Glendale; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; through Aug. 1. (818)

500-7200. (Bill Raden)

URBAN DEATH Zombie Joe's Underground's horror show. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.. (818) 202-4120.

THE WHO'S TOMMY Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff, music and lyrics by Pete Townshend, additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon. Chance Theatre, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (714) 777-3033.

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

ALL CAKE, NO FILE "Johnny Cash Prison Tribute Comedy Cooking Show/Concert," written and performed by Donna Jo Thorndale. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; thru July 31. (310) 838-4264.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY: IN THEIR OWN WORDS Readings from celebrity autobiographies, including tell-alls by Sarah Palin, Carrie Prejean and Tiger Woods. Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica; Mon., July 19, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.. (310) 434-3414.

NEW REVIEW GO BECKY'S NEW CAR

Stage Raw: Unknown Future, Theater on Seward Closes Its Doors

Photo by J. J. Jetel

"When

a woman says she wants a new house, she really wants a new husband.

When she says she wants a new car, she really wants a new life." In

Steven Dietz's smart if tonally uneven new play, these are the prophetic

words of amiable and grounded Becky Foster (Joanna Daniels), who

worries that she has squandered her best years as an office manager

drudge at a car dealership, while saddled with a lumpen husband (Jon

Eric Preston) and patronizing grad student son (Nick Rogers). A chance

for a new life comes prancing into Becky's dealership, when slightly

spacey billionaire billboard tycoon Walter (Brad Greenquist) randomly

chooses Becky as the sales agent for his mass-purchase of cars for all

the employees at his company. Walter, grieving over the death of his

wife, is inexplicably attracted to the earthy "real world" Becky, whose

own moral compass starts swinging around like a drunken sailor as she

contemplates ditching her family for a life of glamour and wealth.

Dietz's play receives its Los Angeles premiere in director Michael

Rothhaar's whimsical production that comes laced with melancholy. The

play's genesis is worthy of some note: The work was a personal

commission by a Seattle arts patron as a gift for his wife. As such, the

material occasionally tries a little too hard to please, with a

narrative that occasionally emulates the mood of 1930s screwball

comedies -- a style that is an uneven alchemical fit with the underlying

tone of midlife despair, in which the work is also deeply steeped.

However, when Dietz is willing to let the play rise to silly froth, the

results are splendid. Scenes in which Daniels' bubbly Becky repeatedly

invites opinions from audience members -- some of whom are roped onstage

into helping her with a wonderfully droll costume change moment --

balance charmingly with moments in which she finds herself swept away by

Greenquist's charismatic Walter. Although the contrivances of the

play's final third are too preposterous to sustain even willing

disbelief, the ensemble overall crackles with witty, sympathetic

performances -- including Rogers as Becky's goofy son and by Suzanne

Ford's graceful turn as a prickly rival for Walter's affections. Pacific

Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd, Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3

p.m.; through August 15. (310) 822-8392. (Paul Birchall)

BLACK COFFEE Black Coffee Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mystery. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 364-0535.

A CHORUS LINE The classic musical about 17 Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line., $23, $18 students/seniors. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 25. 310-828-7519.

HARLOW GOLD: WEST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by

choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. Harvelle's,

1432 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Thurs.. (310) 395-1676.

GO JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY Suffused with a near-Chekhovian mix of the wistful and the melancholy, playwright Henry Jaglom's world premiere comedy is a delight -- an intimate and thoughtful ensemble piece which is as much a paean to the theater as it is a meditation on the perils of living entirely by emotion. In a picturesque but run down country house in upstate New York (realized in Joel Daavid's beautiful detailed set), a theatrical clan spends what is probably for them a typical fall weekend of histrionics and melodrama. These are people who have lived their whole lives for art -- which, one might say, means that dinner is never on time and no one gets up before noon. Elderly thespian George (Jack Heller) and his beloved wife Vivien (Diane Louise Salinger) are in the twilight of their careers, but regret nothing about a life spent on the road performing small plays. Also staying in their home is their beautiful, unstable daughter Pandora (Tanna Frederick), who is taking a "rest" from acting after getting over a recent failed romance. The typically "artsy" family chaos turns even more tumultuous with the arrival of the family's estranged eldest daughter Betsy (Julie Davis), who has grown weary of her eccentric family. When Betsy introduces her lawyer fiance Jimmy (David Garver) to the family, sparks unexpectedly fly -- but the sparks are between Jimmy and free-spirited Pandora. Some overwritten sequences teeter on self indulgence, yet the piece is also wise to the follies of human behavior -- and director Gary Imhoff's subtle staging elegantly juxtaposes the warmth and frustration underscoring the relationships within so many families. The ensemble work is sensitive, yet comically charged, with Frederick's calculatedly daffy turn as the ever-performing Pandora smartly offset by Davis' increasingly angry Betsy. Heller's leonine elderly actor-dad and Salinger's actress mom, tender and sad, wonderfully craft the sense of elders who have never truly grown up, and are amazed by what has happened to their bodies while their minds remain youthful. A Rainbow Theatre Company production. (Paul Birchall). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (310) 399-3666.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents Shakespeare's comedy. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru July 31, latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.

OTHELLO  Presented by Shakespeare & Veterans. West Los Angeles

Bandshell, 11338 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Aug.

8, shakespeareandveterans.org. (310) 694-7233.

TAPE LoneCollective Theatre presents Stephen Belber's study of motive, memory, truth and perception., lonecollectiveproductions@gmail.com. Old Expo Furniture Warehouse, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 30. (562) 639-2659.

TWELFTH NIGHT/JULIUS CAESAR Presented by Shakespeare by the Sea. Point Fermin Park, 807 Paseo del Mar, San Pedro; Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (310) 548-7705.


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