Theater Reviews

Bukowsical Photo by John Mitchell

GO AS YOU LIKE IT: A California Concoction Alison Carey pulls off a very clever SoCal spin on Shakespeare’s comedy that’s filled with jokes about Pasadena, the Bush administration and an exile set in the Mojave Desert. Kate Mulligan and Christopher Liam Moore get to strut their stuff with their remarkable gender-bent performances, finely directed by Bill Rauch. The romp turns more earnest than deep, very sweet and a little too righteous. See Stage feature next week. Cornerstone Theater Company at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 & 9 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. (added perf April 5, 2 p.m.); thru April 16. (626) 356-7529. (Steven Leigh Morris)

BRIGHT IDEAS is an upscale preschool — “Spanish in the fall, French in the spring” — whose limited slots are coveted by scores of pretentious upper-middle-class parents. Among them are Genevra (Stephanie Childers) and Joshua (David Morgan) Bradley, people of moderate means sucked into the frenzied my-child-is-one-up-on-yours competition. Tremulous at first, the two soon embark on murder and other less-diabolical measures to ensure their 3-year-old son’s success. Much of playwright Eric Coble’s satire is on the mark; under Scott Cummins’ direction, the five-person ensemble (with versatile trio Kara Green, Kimberly Lewis and Brian Knudson rendering multiple roles) scores many ironic and telling moments. The caveat is that material extends, somewhat iffily, beyond the comedy-sketch format into a full-length play, its focus becoming Genevra’s transformation into a ruthless killer mom. While Childers has her character’s superficialities down pat, neither she nor Morgan have yet to install the personal edge that would make their performances truly interesting. A simpler, more spartan set and professional lighting would serve the production better than designer Ashley Kramer’s distracting mural and hodgepodge of kiddie-themed set pieces. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 23. (866) 811-4111. (Deborah Klugman)

{mosimage} GO BUKOWSICAL Spencer Green and Gary Stockdale’s musical is a comedic exploration into the life of the late poet, short-story writer and cultural gadfly Charles Bukowski. In this play within a play, the audience receives a behind-the-scenes look as an “idealistic theater company mounts a backers’ audition for an improbable show.” Steven Memel hosts as we follow Bukowski (the bald-pated, corpulent David Lawrence) from his boyhood in Andernach, Germany, along his rise to literary prominence in America by way of 10 musical numbers. Not surprisingly, Green and Stockdale’s lyrics are saturated with bawdy sexuality, disgusting imagery and gutter language, all the things that Chuck was admired for. Some of it is riotously funny, such as “School Song,” where we learn of Bukowski’s tormented childhood and his abuse at the hands of his schoolmates, teacher and father, and “Take Me,” where sweet lady booze (Christina Byron) steps in and seduces him. Dean Cameron capably directs a spirited cast of seven, although at times the show is clearly straining for laughs. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hlywd.; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru May 26 (no perfs April 7 & May 5). (310) 281-8337. (Lovell Estell III)

EXILES IN PARADISE Part concert, part lecture, part multimedia event, soprano Constance Hauman’s meditation on Jewish artists who fled the Nazis for Hollywood is really just an excuse for the singer to strut her stuff in music by composers as varied as Arnold Schoenberg and Walter Jurmann. Between the songs — rendered in German, French and English (in which she is generally, though not always, effective) — Hauman offers commentary on the life and times of these persecuted figures, which she delivers on book, despite having written this show and having performed it since 1998. Even more problematic is the commentary’s content, which Hauman takes credit for researching. Disjointed and often prosaic, it contains errors of fact (calling Goebbels “Hitler’s No. 2 man,” insisting that Goethe’s works were burned in Nazi bonfires) and pronunciation (mar-LEEN Dietrich among others). As for the unimaginative video sequences, also Hauman’s work, they merely distract from the one thing that gives this show any validity: the witty, touching and even tuneful songs chosen by the singer. The songs have been arranged and “orchestrated” by pianist David Wolff, who also accompanies Hauman, along with violinist Tereza Stanislav, cellist Cecilia Tsan and clarinetist Gary Bovyer. Falcon Theater, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru April 2. (818) 955-8101. (David Mermelstein)

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GO IN COMMUNICADO Shy? Repressed? Disconnected? The Doctor of Communication is here to help. Flanked by four stewardessesque attendants dressed in sleek white, our good doctor (the poised and cocky Adam Harrington) heals social insecurities and atrophied emotions by easing his patients into a childlike state of appreciation. He believes — along with writer-directors Adrienne Campbell-Holt and Erica Rice — that people are stifled from both the outside world and their inner feelings, senses and observations. In Campbell-Holt and Rice’s modernist, mock-educational art and dance piece, the cure is equal parts playful and didactic, blending a barrage of fast-talking speeches about arm-crossing and emotional baggage with the far more lovely and resonant scenes where they let the Doc’s two pupils (Christine Barger and David Skyler) try out his lessons in the striking and well-choreographed universe they and their strong design team have created. This ambitious and worthwhile production works best when it stops to take a breath — especially when Christine Avila and Alex Castillo take the stage as a long-married couple whose frustrations and resentments show the perils of staying quiet. Diavolo at the Brewery Art Complex, 616 Moulton Ave., dwntwn.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 9. (323) 623-9003. (Amy Nicholson)

THE LAST DAYS OF TARQUINZ Writer-director Stephen Legawiec’s fascination with myth has yielded some rich results in the past, but here the meaning of the mythic elements is far from clear. The narrator introduces us to a city, Tarquinz, which is destined to disappear without a trace, and the scenes that follow depict what happens on its last day. Obviously, the city is a metaphor, yet it’s a metaphor without a context. There’s also much puzzling detail: Laurence Olivier had a son named Tarquin, and the narrator’s first name is Olivier. What, if anything, should we make of this? Is the theater itself the disappearing city? The individual scenes are a series of vaudeville sketches, or post-modern cabaret. In the first sketch, from the robes of an Asian mendicant monk (Cary Thompson), a mysterious woman (Dana Wieluns) appears to tempt him but disappears when he attempts to embrace her. The liveliest of the sketches concerns four clown children (Daniel Campagna, Betsy Hume, Wieluns and Thompson) who discover a slightly sinister magic music box. Another concerns a woman (Corinda Bravo) whose image (Wieluns) escapes from her mirror. Though there’s much cleverness and rich imagery here, it’s ultimately obscure and enigmatic. Ziggurat Theater Ensemble at Inside the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; call for schedule; thru April 30. (323) 461-3673. (Neal Weaver)

GO LOOSE Tommy Tiernan is a scruffy imp of a man, spewing his filthy comedy (which is a compliment, really) at a high pitch and fast pace while grinning frequently with an expression that borders on idiocy through barrages of curses and stories that crap all over revered symbols — priests, Catholicism, the dignity of women, the dignity of men, of Africans, of Prince Charles, and just about everyone in between. He’s really a Celtic Lenny Bruce, which is no easy task, but it would probably be more striking had we not already had Lenny Bruce. Tiernan’s act falls somewhere between a reprise of Bruce’s strategic offensiveness — that features obsessions with life’s absurdity in general, and anal sex in particular — and Tiernan’s quite remarkable gifts as a dissident storyteller, which makes his act worth the trek to Westwood. Some people walked out, but I had no desire to join them. Nor, however, would I want to join Tiernan for a drink after the show, even though I’d probably watch it again were I in the neighborhood. UCLA Live! and WestBeth Entertainment at UCLA, Macgowan Little Theater, Wstwd.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 2. (310) 825-2101. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO QUARTERLIFE Playwright Sam Forman anatomizes the lives of four 20-somethings whose youthful dreams have crashed and burned. Former first-string Michigan State quarterback Jack (Clark Freeman) wrecked his knee and his athletic career in a game of extreme Frisbee, and now sells insurance. His wannabe actress girlfriend, Sally (Bitsie Tulloch), was a star in college but can’t get cast in the real world. Her friend Maggie (Em Dreiling), who wanted to be a writer, has wound up editing unauthorized movie-star bios. And playwright and former fat-boy Peter (Tamlin Hall) has lost his excess weight though not his insecurities, and he’s just been dumped by his girlfriend. During a single long grass-and-booze-stoked night, the four come together, break apart, or collide like bumper cars in a haze of emotional pain and confusion. Forman perceptively examines the rituals of intimacy and competition, and the buried hostilities that lurk beneath façades of love and friendship. Though much of the play is funny and apt, its movement is circular, and nobody seems to learn much from the emotional revelations. Director Matt Doherty and his fine cast ably explore the emotional depths and shallows on the homey, atmospheric set by Michael Brainerd, despite audibility problems. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Century City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 15. (877) 986-7336. (Neal Weaver)

GO UBU ROI gorges and farts his way through insurrection and revolution, but he’s no less disgusting than the world. Alfred Jarry’s vaudeville, set in some mythic Poland, is about revolution, gluttony and greed. This is among the most spirited, manic productions I’ve seen by this normally staid company — finely crafted by director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and supplemented by composer/musical director David O’s beautifully slovenly accompaniment on a rinky-dink spinet, all manner of percussion and an ensemble chorus on kazoos. Leon Wiebers’ costumes feature a Polish army looking like little Uma Thurmans, sporting air-filter collars. Some musical theater parodies start to wear as thin as some of the voices, and the Brit translation (Cyril Connolly and Simon Watson Taylor) creates a small, unnecessary barrier, but who cares. The evening is more than redeemed by Alan Blumenfeld and Deborah Strang’s bloated Pa and Ma Ubu, as well as this production’s lucid vision of a world, like a boulder, careening toward a cliff’s edge. See Stage feature next week. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; call for schedule; thru May 7. (818) 240-0910, Ext. 1. (Steven Leigh Morris)

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