Opening This Week
ALICE SIT-BY-THE-FIRE J.M. Barrie’s comedy about a mother reunited with her children after serving five years of military duty. PACIFIC RESIDENT THEATRE, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; opens Sat., Dec. 29, 8 p.m.; perfs Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 10. (310) 822-8392.
THE VAMPIRES Chris Berube’s story of an outcast vampire clan. THE NEXT STAGE, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; opens Sat., Dec. 29, 8 p.m.; perfs Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 26. (323) 850-7827.
Reviews by Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Mikulan, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano and Neal Weaver.
ATLANTA Elements of Marcus Hummon and Adrian Pasdar’s brand-new American Civil War musical have appeal, but their synthesis results in a train-wreck. Hummon’s music and lyrics consist of a very pleasing amalgam of James Taylor and Ry Cooder’s musical stylings plus some gospel. Hummon and Pasdar’s story idea has its merits as well, despite cliches — a Yankee soldier in Confederate disguise, a Confederate colonel’s penchant for Shakespeare. The larger problem is the creators’ attempt to exploit Southern gothic rather than explore it. Randall Arney directs. GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 6. (310) 208-5454. (SLM)
GO The Color PurpleBook writer Marsha Norman and composer-lyricists Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray’s stage adaptation of Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel is a surprisingly faithful and melodic compression of Walker’s epistolary narrative about a Southern black woman (Jeannette Bayardelle) beaten down almost from birth, but whose resilience allows her to survive. Although Act 2 suffers from an inevitable sugar rush, director Gary Griffin gets great efforts from a huge ensemble. Center Theatre group at the ahmanson theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6:30 p.m.; mats Sat., 2 p.m. & Sun., 1 p.m.; No perfs Dec. 25, Jan. 1 & March 5 or evenings Feb. 3 & March 9; added perfs Dec. 27, Jan. 31 & March 6, 2 p.m. & Dec. 31, 8 p.m.; Perf March 4 is 7:30 p.m.; Thru March 9. (213) 972-7231. (Sm)
GIRLS NIGHT: THE MUSICAL Five female friends hang out, reminisce, bitch and sing. CORONET THEATRE, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Tues. & Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Wed., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 6. (310) 657-7377.
The Kid From BrooklynSee New Reviews.
GO WICKED In this musical riff on the witches of Oz (by Stephen Schwarz and Winnie Hollzman), Joe Mantello directs a marvelous spectacle that looks like a diversion but is actually quite the opposite. Eden Espinoza as the green-skinned, bespectacled girl-witch Elphaba has a contagiously smart appeal. After recognizing that Elphaba’s not going to power-play along with the Wizard’s (John Rubinstein) Stalinist shenanigans, Mrs. Morrible (the delightful Carol Kane) starts a witch-hunt for the girl, and the whole thing starts to resemble some of the tawdrier chapters in American history. PANTAGES THEATER, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; indef. (213) 365-3500. (SLM)
Hollywood, West Hollywood, Downtown
ALL THIS, & HEAVEN TOO “I stopped believing in things when Diana Ross started playing rodeos,” laments aging queen Terry (Sammy Williams), who along with his band of gay brothers has seen better days. Now all over 40, they’ve assembled to honor the just-deceased Boomie (James Warnock). Over the course of Dick DeBenedictis’ 10 breezy musical numbers, they mourn the end of the disco era and wax nostalgic for the bathhouses of yore. Though its heart is in the right place, Bill Dyer’s play seems like a time capsule, a comfort food buffet of soft shoe numbers and references to the Andrews Sisters. MACHA THEATRE, 1107 N. Kings Rd., W. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 30. (323) 960-7776. (AN)
ANYTHING In Tim McNeil’s comedy, Early Landry (McNeil) is a transplanted Southerner still grieving for his wife, while also tamping down the demons that have caused him to attempt suicide four times. His next-door transvestite prostitute neighbor Freda (Louis Jacobs) has just been dumped by her more-or-less straight boyfriend (Max Williams). The rebounding Early and Freda take a while to reach eye level for the romance that inevitably follows. McNeil and Jacobs are personable actors, but David Fofi’s direction doesn’t nudge them off their single-note performances. Elephant Theater Company at the LILLIAN THEATER, 1076 N. Lillian St., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 13. (323) 960-4410. (SM)
A CHRISTMAS TWIST See New Reviews.
CINDERELLA New take on the classic tale, music and lyrics by Lloyd J. Schwartz. THEATRE WEST, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Hlywd.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru March 29. (818) 761-2203.
GO THE COMPLICATIONS OF PURCHASING A POODLE PILLOW The brilliance of Mary Lynn Rajskub’s standup act stems from a kind of bewildered, inarticulate persona who goes off on digressions and deliberately neglects to finish stories. The disarray is a con; by show’s end, it all adds up. Because of Chloe — her character on Fox’s 24 — she says she was invited to a counter-terrorism panel hosted by Rush Limbaugh, who, in a moment of introduction, accidentally kissed her on the lips. After rumors of their affair spread around the country, she e-mailed Limbaugh, asking for a date — the response was blistering. If none of this is actually true, it’s even more impish and delightful. Steve Allen Theater at the CENTER FOR INQUIRY–WEST, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Sun., 8 p.m.; indef. (no perfs first Sunday of every month). (800) 595-4TIX. (SLM)
THE GAY MAFIA: NU-QUEER WINTER See New Reviews.
GO HAIR Director-choreographer Bo Crowell could have presented Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt MacDermot’s Summer of Love rock & roll gem as a period piece. Instead, he cannily opts for a spiritual take that gives the material an unexpected timelessness. In this 40th-anniversary production, this is Hair by way of Burning Man. Christian Nesmith’s musical direction is perfect — and Crowell’s free-spirited choreography contains an intricate grace. The ensemble’s heartfelt renditions of “Aquarius” and “Let the Sun Shine In” induce the show’s bona fide chills. MET THEATRE, 1089 Oxford Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 30. (323) 960-4442. (PB)
HARM’S WAY Shem Bitterman’s play is a thoughtful, stateside view of America’s actions in Iraq, centered on an Army atrocity that is investigated by a military father (Jack Stehlin) whose daughter (Katie Lowes) falls in love with the case’s chief suspect (Ben Bowen). While it doesn’t completely fulfill its dramatic potential, the two-hour show, directed by Steve Zuckerman, mostly avoids editorializing, preferring instead to question how good people do terrible things. CIRCUS THEATRICALS STUDIO THEATER at the Hayworth, 643 Carondelet St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (no perfs Dec. 28-29 & Jan. 4-5); thru Feb. 9. (323) 960-1054. (SM)
GO THE IDIOTS Somewhere between the insanity of Monty Python, the cynicism of Penn and Teller, and the stupidity of the Three Stooges exists this bizarre comedy by writer-performers Craig Anton and Ron Lynch. The conceit framing their wild physical and verbal antics is the reunion of two rivals — respectively the sons of Watson and Crick, who discovered DNA. With the appearance of a guest comic, the hour show flies by with humor and even some human insight and pathos beneath the Idiots’ smug stupidity. STEVE ALLEN THEATER at the Center for Inquiry–West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz; last Thurs. of the month, 8 p.m.; indef. (800) 595-4TIX. (TP)
LESSONS Wendy Graf’s drama shows a series of life-changing meetings between a young, derailed female rabbi (Larissa Laskin) and a retired shoe manufacturer (Hal Lindon). One finds oneself screaming for some of these characters’ back stories to arrive between the lines rather than in them. Yet the play grapples with profound ideas about faith and optimism, so it’s clear why Gordon Davidson chose to make this his first directing assignment since leaving CTG. West Coast Jewish Theatre and The Group at Strasberg, LEE STRASBERG CREATIVE CENTER, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Jan. 6 (no perfs Dec. 27-30). (323) 650-7777. (SLM)
LOVE LOVES A PORNOGRAPHER Jillian Armenante directs a perfectly calibrated send-up of English gothic lit in Jeff Goode’s new play. The lord and lady of the manor (William Salyers and Gillian Doyle) invite neighbors Miles and Millicent Monger (Jim Anzide and Johanna McKay) for a friendly game of blackmail. Loveworthy is a novelist; Monger, a cleric and viperous literary critic for “The Times.” Jokes abound about venomous literary critics when most newspaper’s book sections are now being eviscerated; the gender superiority of stupid men, and the moral hypocrisy of the English upper class. Are these tired themes worth all these resources? That said, the acting and set are terrific. Circle X Theatre Company at [INSIDE] THE FORD, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 20. (323) 461-3673. (SLM)
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 Reeve’s role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. The city’s banks are being hit by a gang of robbers known as the Ex Presidents, surfers who always wear the masks of former chief executives while making their withdrawals. Utah gets his man, but not before a Grand Guignol scene of blood and guts that’s so hideously over the top you can’t stop laughing. Charlie O’s in the ALEXANDRIA HOTEL, 501 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; indef. (866) 811-4111. (LE3)
GO SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE! The 19 ditties belted out by Chad Borden, Tameka Dawn, Antoine Reynaldo Diel, Eduardo Enrikez, Elaine Loh and Susan Rudick are one-third of the entire output of the beloved ’70s and ’80s kids program and, as such, they cover a lot of educational ground. While the lyrics are often so mumbled that the exact definition of a pronoun is indecipherable, the tots in the surprisingly hipster-free matinee audience were downright giddy about multiplying by fives. Director Mark Savage and choreographer Brian Paul Mendoza keep the mood peppy without parody. GREENWAY COURT THEATER, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sat., 4 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 24. (323) 655-7679. (AN)
SERIAL KILLERS “Five stories. Five cliffhangers. Only three can continue.” SACRED FOOLS THEATRE, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hlywd.; Sat., 11 p.m.; indef. (310) 281-8337 or www.sacredfools.org.
THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton, Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. STEVE ALLEN THEATER at the Center for Inquiry–West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., mid.; indef. (323) 960-7785.
A TUNA CHRISTMAS Sequel to Greater Tuna, starring Mindy Sterling and Patrick Bristow. THEATRE ASYLUM, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 6. (323) 960-7753 or www.plays411.com/tunachristmas.
A CHARLIE JAMES BROWN CHRISTMAS The 1965 “Peanuts” holiday special, to the tunes of the Godfather of Soul. FALCON THEATRE, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 20. (818) 955-8101.
THE DESK SET William Marchant’s 1956 comedy centers on Bunny Watson (Michele Bernath), the resourceful head of the research department. However, she’s threatened by efficiency expert Sumner (Robert Gallo), who hints that her department might be replaced by the new “electronic brain” called Emmarac. The play climaxes with a clever face-off between Bunny and the humongous computer. Unfortunately, the rest of the play fails to live up to its climactic scene, and director Doug Engalla’s lackluster production offers little help. LONNY CHAPMAN GROUP REPERTORY THEATRE, 10900 Burbank Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 29. (818) 700-4878. (NW)
A DOLL HOUSE Blame Oprah that Henrik Ibsen’s melodrama about a sheltered wife who empowers herself by leaving her paternalistic husband has irrevocably lost its shock value. What remains is a fatalistic, long-winded and aging play that needs a fresh approach. Aramazd Stepanian’s production, updated to the 1950s, draws the play into the world of an I Love Lucy episode: Georgan George’s Nora is a dizzy schemer with flaming red hair and pearls. This approach would be worth exploring more deeply, Instead, this friendly but tepid revival simply can’t shake off the dust. LUNA PLAYHOUSE, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (no perfs Dec. 28-29 & Jan. 4-5); thru Jan. 19. (818) 500-7200. (AN)
GO Paging Dr. ChutzpahInspired by ’60s sex farces and ribald Vaudeville skits, playwright Mark Troy’s comedy is a romp that rolls by on director Lynne Moses and her cast’s commitment to the play’s zany shenanigans. Dr. Lester Oronofsky (Marq Del Monte) is considered top psychiatrist in Manhattan. But one wonders how he hasn’t gotten slapped with a sexual-harassment lawsuit due to his predilection for seducing his patients. You’re in for a wacky night, punctuated by Troy’s snappy one-liners, Moses’ breezy staging, and Del Monte’s lecherous leer and Yiddish kvetching. SIDEWALK STUDIO THEATRE, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 26. (818) 558-5702. (MH)
TWIST With its larger-than-life drag queens, boys being caned in their underwear, and song-and-dance numbers about torrid gay sex, composer-playwrights Gila Sand and Paul Leschen’s queer rock musical reinvention of Charles Dickens’ famous tale puts the “twisted” into the story of Oliver Twist. It’s not for want of trying that director Paul Storiale’s production doesn’t quite jell, but the staging’s hampered by awkward pacing problems, clumpy choreography and unfocused comic timing. Still, the ensemble’s voices are top drawer. AVERY SCHREIBER THEATER, 11050 Magnolia Blvd, N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 30. (866) 811-4111. (PB)
THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA See new reviews. Shakespeare’s play, set in Edwardian England. WHITMORE-LINDLEY THEATRE CENTER, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru Jan. 13. (310) 497-2884
GO WINTER WONDERETTES is creator-director Roger Bean’s holiday sequel to his long-running musical, The Marvelous Wonderettes, that mythical amateur female girl band from the late ’60s. This time, the Wonderettes entertain at the Harper Hardware Christmas party. Complications ensue when the boss vanishes — and the envelopes holding the Christmas bonuses unexpectedly turn out to hold an unpleasant surprise. One can’t help wishing that Bean’s frolic contained a stronger narrative spine, but the production is, in most other respects, the perfect Christmas revue. EL PORTAL FORUM THEATRE, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 31. (888) 505-SHOW. (PB)
GO YO HO HO! A PIRATE’S CHRISTMAS In this swashbuckling holiday musical for children (written and directed by James J. Mellon, with songs by Mellon and Scott DeTurk), a crew of intellectually challenged pirates led by Black-Eyed Johnny (Jonathan Zenz) set off in their politically correct ship, The Flying Dutch-Person, thinking they’re headed for the balmy South Seas. But navigator Tusk (J.R. Mangles) looks at his map upside down, so they wind up at the North Pole. At 75 minutes, the show’s not too long for the under-12 crowd, with plenty of comic action. NOHO ARTS CENTER, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 1 & 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 30. (818) 508-1701, Ext. 7. (NW)
AFTER-PLAY Two couples dine in a Manhattan restaurant, in Anne Meara’s serio-comedy. LONG BEACH PLAYHOUSE, Studio Theatre, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 14 (no perfs Dec. 28-29; added perfs Jan. 6 & 13, 2 p.m.). (562) 494-1014.
@HEART J-Powers’ epistolary drama uses e-mail and instant messaging to tell an old-fashioned story of love and war. Following 9/11, idealistic young Harris (Mikey Myers) feels like he must do something, so he enlists in the Army, with the wholehearted support of his doting wife, Jennifer (Jessica McClendon). The moral of J-Powers’ drama — caught between a tear-jerker and a polemic — seems to be that warrior adventuring is ultimately vanity, while the brave are often left behind. Director Paul Linke’s static production mainly consists of the two performers seated behind a pair of laptops. RUSKIN GROUP THEATRE, 3000 Airport Ave., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Jan. 20. (310) 397-3244. (PB)
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EXTRAORDINARY DECEPTIONS: A MAGICAL HOLIDAY EXTRAVAGANZA Performer Michael Gutenplan is a magician of the old school, and, in his solo tour de force, the stage crackles. Among the feats of legerdemain: Gutenplan waves his hand, and a $20 bill plucked from the hand of an audience member reappears — inside a lemon! (The owner of the bill was less than pleased when his Jefferson was returned dripping with juice.) Gutenplan’s smooth-running act, unpretentiously and unobtrusively directed by Ryan Dixon, cries out for a more intimate forum. POWERHOUSE THEATER, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Dec 30. (310) 396-3680, Ext. 3. (PB)
THE ANNUAL ONE-TIME-ONLY NEW YEAR’S EVE REVUE! Selections from the year’s most-requested Playhouse productions. SANTA MONICA PLAYHOUSE, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Mon., Dec. 31, 6:30 & 9:30 p.m. (310) 394-9779.
BROADWAY ON ICE Dorothy Hamill skates to Broadway songs performed by Kevin Spirtas. CERRITOS CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, 12700 Center Court Dr., Cerritos; Fri.-Sat., Dec. 28-29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 30, 3 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 31, 2 p.m. (562) 467-8818, www.cerritoscenter.com.