The Troubies Strike Gold Again in Two Gentlemen of Chicago, plus Theatre Banshee's Pick-Worthy Merchant, and Other New Reviews
Just about recovered from Monday night's Lawees, described in a stream of personal emails as "the best ever," thanks to hosts Lost Moon Radio.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication April 5, 2012
Let's Lab! with the Lynx, Jono Zalay, & More!
TicketsFri., Jan. 20, 10:00pm
Literary Death Match
TicketsSat., Jan. 21, 6:00pm
Long.hard.sets. with Tone Bell, Jonathan Kite & More!
TicketsSat., Jan. 21, 8:00pm
TicketsSat., Jan. 21, 8:00pm
Tonight At the Improv
TicketsSat., Jan. 21, 10:00pm
Successful Broadway thriller writer Sidney Bruhl (Brian Foyster) has hit a long dry spell and is desperate for a hit. He and his wife, Myra (Cynthia Gravinese), conspire to steal a play from a young playwright (Burt Grinstead), whom Bruhl met while teaching a seminar on the genre. Ira Levin's 1978 hit ran four years on Broadway and has been playing regional theaters nonstop since because of its intricate plot twists, which are perhaps rivaled only by Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth for ingeniousness. Director Ken Sawyer has successfully added sensual passion to a play that usually succeeds solely through cleverness and scares. Though the casting is uneven, Grinstead brings a youthful energy and acting skill that increases as the play's tension mounts. Elizabeth Herron provides delightful comic relief in what is often simply a goofy role as the Bruhls' psychic neighbor. Technically the production is superb, with greatest plaudits going to Joel Daavid, who created an amazing woodsy cabin in the tiny theater space. Davidson Valentini Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through May 6. (323) 860-7300, lagaycenter.org. (Tom Provenzano)
THE LABORATORIES OF OUR YOUTH
The setting for Graham Bowlin's bungling romantic comedy is the basement of a New Jersey research facility, where fellow scientists Harvey (Jesse Threat) and Abe (Bowlin) are vying for an internship grant. These friends also are contending for the affections of the lovely Rosemary (Alex Hensley), who spends most of the time in a state of blissful ignorance. Not satisfied with his chances, Abe hatches a plot to tip the odds in his favor by using Piero Le Ferla (Dustin Gooch, the only member of this cast who actually can act), a very gay World War II pilot, to hit on Harvey. That this tactic completely backfires comes as no surprise. In addition to Bowlin's stillborn script, the physical comedy and shtick are grossly overpitched by director Cameron Strittmatter. Gooch kicks up some genuine chuckles, as does his aide de camp Travis Coles, but that's it. Flight Theater at the Complex, 6472 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; through April 15. (323) 960-4451, Plays411.com/youth. (Lovell Estell III)
THE MANY MISTRESSES OF MARTIN LUTHER KING
Like its bloviating central character, Andrew Dolan's new drama strives to be incisive and deep but plays out as merely shallow and smug. It pivots around a white college professor named Simon (Philip Casnoff) whose politically incorrect book detailing Martin Luther King's promiscuity contributes to his denial of tenure at a prestigious university. Simon's own sexually pulsating second marriage to an African-American former student (Tracey A. Leigh) begins to unravel over his contempt for her academically challenged brother (Theo Perkins) and his disregard for the problems of poor people in general. Though it aspires to relevance, the play exudes the stuffy ambience of academia. Its pretentiousness grows especially irksome when one character delivers a lecture on Greek drama, inferring some tragic parallel between the action onstage and the ancients. Casnoff is very good as an unctuous egotist, and Perkins has a few enlivening moments near the end. Rod Menzies directs. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through April 29. (323) 644-1929, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. (Deborah Klugman)
PICK OF THE WEEK: THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
Director Sean Branney is keenly aware that the blatant anti-Semitism of Elizabethan England, which permeates Shakespeare's dark comedy, can be disturbing for today's audiences. Rather than softening or cutting the text, he seeks to achieve a balance. Shylock has been played as a deep-dyed villain, a clown or a victim, but Shakespeare actually makes him a complex blend. Actor Barry Lynch follows the bard's lead by making him funny, touching and also incredibly cruel in retaliation for the suffering inflicted on him. And thereby a kind of rough justice is achieved. Time Winters brings to the merchant Antonio the weight and authority befitting the play's title character. Kirsten Kollender's Portia is a mischievous minx, giddy but practical, sane and very much in love with Bassanio, played with thoughtful sympathy by Daniel Kaemon. Ericka Winterrowd and Maeve Kiely shine as Portia's high-spirited sidekicks. Tim Stafford makes an engaging goofball of Lancelot Gobbo, and Anthony Mark Barrow and James Schendel deftly capture the pomposity of Portia's rival suitors. By bathing the play in rich good humor, Branney ensures the last scene is a festive celebration of the restoration of order in a disordered world. Designer Arthur McBride provides the handsomely symmetrical set. Theatre Banshee 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 13. (818) 846-5323, theatrebanshee.org (Neal Weaver)
NAKED BEFORE GOD Even when you've exposed your most private physical parts to the whole world, could the most vulnerable act you ever do be stripping down and revealing your soul to God? It's a compelling thought, and the one that playwright-director Leo Geter could have focused on in this world premiere. Instead, he plants a bunch of stories but doesn't have time to nurture any of them. Kristen (Jennifer A. Skinner) is a former porn star turned born-again Christian, and her 19-year-old son, who married a woman 10 years his elder because she got pregnant, is entering the biz himself. But times have changed, and he's auditioning for gay online porn. Throw in his requisite sketchy, "naive" co-star, a couple of rogue soldiers and a sleazy Christian radio show host who wants to sell Kristen's story as a reality television show. All of the narratives are a little (or a lot) twisted, and have the potential to be developed into intriguing plot lines. As a veteran television writer, Geter has the entire first season of an FX black comedy on his hands. But as a two-hour play, everything's flung at the wall, where nothing sticks but the icky confirmation that sex is still currency. Circle X Theatre Co. at [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through April 28. (323) 461-3673. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
1969: A FANTASTICAL ODYSSEY THROUGH THE AMERICAN MIND
What could lunar-orbiting Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins (Brendan Farrell) and atheist activist and gadfly Madalyn Murray O'Hair (Rebecca Avery) possibly have in common? In reality, not a lot. In playwright Damon Chua's maundering evening of metaphysical whimsy, they share the epicenter of a cosmic crisis of faith that will shape the destiny of humankind. Making the actual rendezvous with that destiny are Collins' young son, Junior (Rod Keller), and O'Hair's Vietnam-vet offspring, Bill (Pat Scott). Their salvation is in the hands of drowned ex-RFK campaign aide Mary Jo Kopechne (Meredith M. Sweeney) and a sinister deciduous demigod called Tree (Brett Fleisher). Long before director Tony Gatto (abetted by Adam Flemming's gratuitous video projections) runs Chua's pop-historical potpourri completely off its postmodernist rails, the play's mind-twisting quasi-profundities offer a sobering reminder of why the children of the '60s traded in their LSD for the comforting lucidity of the 401(k). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun, 2 p.m.; through April 29. (323) 930-0747, 1969theplay.com. (Bill Raden)
GO TWO GENTLEMEN OF CHICAGO
The latest Shakespearean modern-music mash-up from the Troubies is yet another hit for the cheeky troupe of triple-threat performers. Proteus (Matt Walker, who also directs) and Valentine (Rob Nagle) are best friends, but the game of love threatens their bond. Julia (Christine Lakin, who also choreographs) thinks Proteus is her one-and-only, but Proteus soon develops feelings for Valentine's beloved, Silvia (Monica Schneider). As the Bard's comic formula dictates, all ends in happiness after silly skirmishes and backstabbing bouts. Chicago's dreamiest ballads, including "If You Leave Me Now" and "You're the Inspiration," keep the romance factor high, and the sometimes syrupy lyrics are perfect material for the company's sarcastic sensibility. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m. (added perfs Sat., April 7 & 14, 4 p.m.); through April 22. (818) 955-8101, falcontheatre.com. (Amy Lyons)
THE WHO'S TOMMY
A successful revival of a classic or seminal work of theater depends on one of two things: Either the original is faithfully replicated with flawless execution, or the original is innovatively reinterpreted to shed new light on the source material. When neither of these is true, the production becomes an also-ran in the litany of remounts all classics endure, which is sadly the case here. Despite the MET Theatre's previous successes with musicals in its intimate space, this revival of the Who's rock opera suffers most obviously from an ill-conceived sound design that allows the band to overpower the singers. Outside of Jess Ford, who plays Tommy and sings with passion, the performers generally lack the gusto necessary to sell the material. Angela Todaro's choreography is similarly uninspired and lukewarmly executed. And while director Hallie Baran competently maneuvers a sizable cast and efficiently stages transitions between songs, when it comes to a classic, competent just isn't enough. DOMA Theatre Company at the MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through April 15. (323) 465-0693, domatheatre.com (Mayank Keshaviah)
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