Theater Reviews

PICK TWELVE ANGRY MEN Reginald Rose’s 1957 courtroom drama is as familiar as a beef dip that’s been on the deli menu for decades. And Scott Ellis’ touring show for Roundabout Theatre Company has been crossing the country for so many months, this ensemble plays it as tautly as a ballet. Richard Thomas plays doubting Thomas as an Ivy League skeptic among Brooklyn sports fans and a European watchmaker. Thomas shows twitches of both reflectiveness and sarcasm as he casts a long shadow over the “guilty” opinion held by the 11 other fellas in a sweaty jury room about to step back into court and render their verdict. The case is that of a ghetto kid accused of murdering his father, with a couple of witnesses supporting the charge. Dissecting the logic of the witnesses’ testimony, both the play and this production are glorious in their meticulousness, in the way when one new “not guilty” vote emerges from the discussion, it’s met with an explosion of fury, like dogs barking when a rabbit is dropped outside their fence. The music then shifts into adagio as reason returns. Allen Moyer’s grimy set provides the single locale for a visual dynamic that’s as hypnotic as the ebbs and floes of a lava lamp. Lovely performances also by George Wendt’s rotund, slightly baffled foreman, and by Alan Mandell as a principled old codger who, at any minute, is either going to launch into a tap dance, pass out or pass away. In the end, though, the play steals the thunder in its magnificent clash between evidence and prejudice, between truth and assumption, that what we take to be the orderly and empirical is, in fact, largely grounded in fiction, distortion and subliminal rage. And that’s nothing new. Roundabout Theatre Company and Center Theatre Group at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 6. (213) 628-2772.  (Steven Leigh Morris)

THE WOLF In his problematic yet at times engrossing drama on post-traumatic stress disorder, actor-playwright Sean Huze raises a provocative question: Can those “wolves” who do the killing for us in war ever be able to live peacefully among the flock they’re sworn to protect? U.S. Marine Joey (Huze), imprisoned in a military psychiatric ward in North Carolina for the murder of Iraqi civilians, escapes with Kelly (Cameron Goodman), who snapped in Iraq after her sexual assault by fellow Marines. Both understandably psychotic, they head for his Ohio hometown, where the increasingly enraged Joey hopes to settle a mysterious score with his trusted parish priest, Father Lawrence (Damien Leake), who drowns nightmares of his own Vietnam violence in alcohol and platitudes. Huze sheds light on compelling issues, from the sexually exploitive treatment by U.S. soldiers against their female compatriots, to the military’s dehumanization of “the enemy” that makes even civilians fair game. But at other times, Huze strains credibility, such as with Joey’s carefree movements and strenuous lovemaking all with a serious bullet wound. Under Rick Pagano’s direction, the cast’s performances lean to the histrionic, an understandable consequence of Huze’s far-from-fleshed-out characters. The Vetstage Foundation/Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America at the ARTWORKS PERFORMANCE SPACE, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (no perf Sun., April 8); thru May 5. (323) 960-5775. (Martín Hernández)


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