Theater Reviews

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS is one of many of the Bard’s mistaken-identity farces. Perhaps by virtue of being his first in that genre, its plot is annoyingly thin, but it still evinces Shakespeare’s incomparable wit and gift for lightning-quick banter that prefigures the more substantial, later comedies. And though director Darin Anthony suffers from a disparity of acting talent and unspecific staging, he certainly taps into the work’s playfulness and jocularity. Anthony does well to play up the shtick and streamline the expository passages, of which there are many. John E. Farrell and Don Formaneck shine as the twin Antipholi, whose fraternal likeness precipitates the titular errors, and Jim Van Over and Michael Irish deliver some energetic pratfalls as twin servant Dromios, who further the confusion. Rachel Levy is also strong as Luciana, the ebullient sister-in-law whose attempted escape from the amorous advancements of the fellow she thinks is her sibling’s husband marks the production’s most hilarious moment. Some odd costuming and sound-design choices leave frayed threads of amateurism around the edges, though the evening is quite enjoyable. Shakespeare by the Sea, at venues throughout the South Bay; call for schedule and locations; thru Aug. 12. (310) 217-7596 or (Luis Reyes)

GO COMPLEXITY Just how many lies does it take to destroy a marriage? As many as necessary if you’re Cathy (Jennifer deCastroverde), an obsessive secretary with a disturbed longing for her boss. And it sure doesn’t hurt if the spouses in question are ripe for retribution over their mutual indiscretions. Playwright John Bunzel’s clever and chilling dark comedy is a cautionary tale of the destructive power of lies and how you just shouldn’t tell one when trying to save your sorry ass, or salve your psychic ache. Despite Cathy’s pixieish demeanor, she is a psychopath with abandonment issues whose intermittent monologues rationalizing her twisted logic are both hilarious and disturbing. She manipulates self-absorbed Manhattan investment banker Tom (director Jack Stehlin) and his alienated wife, Jill (Shannon Holt), like a puppeteer, filling each with suspicion and exploiting a tragedy that has driven both apart. While Stehlin goes overboard at times in portraying Tom’s brutish rage, he holds a firm directorial handle on Bunzel’s crisp and sardonic exchanges with Jill, her dad (Neal Vipond) and her putative and neurotic lover, David (Nicholas Read). And Cindy Marinangel is refreshingly frank as Tom’s caustic and mercenary mistress, the only honest character in the basket. CIRCUS THEATRICALS STUDIO THEATER AT THE HAYWORTH, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; performs in rep, call for schedule. (323) 960-1054. (Martín Hernández)

GO THE LAST FIVE YEARS Jason Robert Brown’s musical begins with the end. “Jamie is gone... and I’m still hurting,” croons an abandoned, brokenhearted Cathy (Misty Cotton). Next, Cathy’s departed lover, Jamie (Daniel Tatar), shoots onto the stage as though fueled by one too many Red Bulls; his side of the story begins on the glorious day he first met Cathy. The guy is in love, and he’s so pumped about it that his audience can’t help but get excited too. Jamie wails through “Shiksa Goddess,” intermittently dropping to his knees, popping back up, and even smacking his own ass. After the two get married, however, Jamie grows apathetic, while Cathy continues to worship him. Although it would be easy to paint Jamie as the villain, director Nick DeGruccio resists such easy judgments. Jamie’s visible guilt over his growing indifference toward Cathy renders him introspective and somewhat human, even sympathetic. In a painfully funny song about his unshakable attraction to other women, Jamie whines, “In a perfect world a miracle would happen and every girl would look like Mr. Ed.” Because Cathy and Jamie rarely occupy the same temporal period, duets are few and far between. This is a good thing, since the sentimental moments shared by the two actors fall short of believability. The love story is passable, certainly, but it’s the loss-of-love story that really shines. PASADENA PLAYHOUSE, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 6. (626) 356-PLAY. (Stephanie Lysaght)

Adapter-director Joseph Stachura creates a postmodern world in which Robert “King” Lear (Robert Craig) serves as the CEO of LEAR.COM, one of seven corporations that rule a world under the aegis of Emperor George Bush IV. Besides modernizing the costuming and a few props (e.g., guns for swords), however, Shakespeare’s play remains fairly intact. To purists this may come as a relief, but having detailed a scenario for a futuristic world in the program notes, it is disappointing that Stachura didn’t realize his adaptation as fully as West Side Story brought Romeo and Juliet into an updated fold. Instead, changes come in the form of armed guards donning Jesus caps, the poverty of the homeless replacing that of medieval peasants, “news” broadcasts between scenes that detail happenings in this darkly futuristic corporate empire, and a set that looks like something Buckminster Fuller might have built with an Erector Set. The direction lacks subtlety and emotional range, often resulting in shouting matches and rants trying to pass for intensity. Allana Barton shines as executive-turned-homeless homeboy Kent, and John Sperry Sisk infuses Edgar with a crazed dementia that would make William Golding proud. KNIGHTSBRIDGE THEATER, 1944 Riverside Dr., Silver Lake; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Aug. 6. (323) 667-0955. (Mayank Keshaviah)

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PYRENEES Perhaps the biggest relief about playwright David Greig’s story of an amnesiac holed up in a French mountain resort is that the mysterious man turns out to be no figure of intrigue or international terrorism, but just a bloke from Scotland who took a fall in the snow. On the lam from a mediocre life and from a wife who probably cares more than she should about their hollow marriage, the middle-aged man (Tom Irwin) is interviewed by a young, epileptic member of the British consulate (Tessa Thompson). The more they talk about life and its expectations, the more they click — until the wife (Frances Conroy), who has been tracking her husband all over Europe, appears on the scene. Greig works in some points about personal responsibility and redemption (the play briefly flirts with becoming a resurrection fable), but Pyrenees is so overwritten that Greig can’t find the turn-off switch to end it as it rolls past the two-hour mark. His inclusion of a scene-chewing proprietor/waiter (Jan Triska) only slows things down. Director Neel Keller’s production feels as cold as Greig’s alpine setting. Irwin owns the stage with his portrayal of a man without a memory and quite happy to be that way, but Thompson, her British accent tenuous at best, barely makes her character two-dimensional. KIRK DOUGLAS THEATER, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru July 30. (213) 628-2772. (Steven Mikulan)

ROCK AND ROLL HEAVEN: The Musical Comedy
Rock’s been declared dead for the past three decades, but writer-director Jason Mershon has just composed the definitive obituary. His musical pushes the Holy Jim Trinity (Morrison, Hendrix and Belushi) plus Elvis, Lennon, Freddie Mercury and Janis Joplin up a stairway to heaven — minus the earthly sweat, sin and sizzle that made them interesting alive. Here, the legendary personalities are as interchangeable as Legos and as perky as Mickey Rooney and his gee-willikers gang as they set about putting on a rock show for Jesus’ birthday (Jason Magnuson plays the Savior as a tone-deaf hippie). Who knew the Lizard King was prone to conga lines? But just as Judy Garland (standout Alex Spencer) signs on, Satan (John Moschitta Jr.) slithers in to cancel the concert and shame the musicians with a ditty about people who die in bathrooms — while the audience is nudged by the bittersweet reminder that naughty is more fun than nice. Despite a few sly quips and groaners straight from the borscht belt, the bubbly ditties and canned synth soundtrack sound a dirge for authentic rock & roll long before Mercury (Jose Sinatra) takes the stage with a dancing condom. THEATER 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., Suite D, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 27. (323) 960-7774. (Amy Nicholson)

William Hanley’s 1964 drama, set in a down-at-heel candy store in a remote Brooklyn neighborhood just after the execution of Adolph Eichmann, brings together three mismatched strangers: Storeowner Glas (Charles Howerton), a German former communist, may have been incarcerated in Mathausen concentration camp during WWII; jittery black man Randall (Matthew Thompson) claims to have an IQ of 187 and hints at a dark crime he has committed; and a Jewish girl from the Bronx, Rosie (Veronique Ory), got lost on her way to a backstreet abortion. The killing ground, we’re told, refers to the city streets, and there is much self-conscious talk about responsibility, a mock trial, and a lot of free-floating menace. Each character has a confessional monologue, during which stage lights are dimmed to highlight the speaker. More pretentious still is a pair of interpretive dancers (Kim Parmon and Adrian Vatsky) who perform jangly tangos behind a scrim. Director Mark Thomas Boergers handles his actors well, eliciting good performances from all, but his mise en scène is sketchy and unconvincing, and he can’t conceal the script’s contrived nature. Athena Theater at the LOUNGE THEATER, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 29. (818) 754-1423. (Neal Weaver)

{mosimage}GO ZERO HOUR During the 1950s, Zero Mostel became as famous for his politics as for his comic talents. Summoned before HUAC, he not only refused to name names but, unlike many witnesses, goaded his interrogators instead of quavering before them. Writer/solo performer Jim Brochu’s biographical drama is structured as a meeting with a New York Times journalist in 1962 shortly before the comedian’s death. The piece begins stridently, with Brochu portraying a blustering Mostel as arrogantly seizing control of the interview by asking his own questions while snidely taunting his unseen guest as he sketches the man’s portrait. Directed by Paul Kreppel, the narrative then travels from Mostel’s early years as the seventh child born into a large Orthodox Jewish family to his post-blacklist professional successes, achieved more than once in edgy collaborations with Jerome Robbins, whom Mostel despised for naming names. At some indecipherable point the play’s discordant tone fades, and by its end we’ve come to respect — in some ways even feel close to — this outsize personality, whose physical girth was matched by an educated wit and a sprawling humanity. West Coast Jewish Theater at the EGYPTIAN ARENA THEATER, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 13. (323) 860-6620. (Deborah Klugman)

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