Theater Reviews: Beaverquest!: The Musical, My Fair Lady

Freak Dance: The Forbidden Dirty Boogaloo

 GO  BEAVERQUEST! THE MUSICAL Sacred Fools Theatre Company has made a spectacular return from an era of what company members have described as the dysfunction of yore. I’ve seen two of the shows there (of the four that are currently in production) over the past two weeks, including the troupe’s late-night contest, Serial Killers. Enthusiastic and largely young audiences packing the house to these mid-run shows are a fair indication of this organization’s health. Such a rebound is cause for optimism in an extremely arduous field. Padraic Duffy (book and lyrics) and Bobby Stapf’s (music) animated country musical parody, Beaverquest! The Musical, was conceived from the sketch-comedy format of Serial Killers, and has evolved into a lighthearted social satire, delivered entirely through nonsense-tinged allegory. A romance between the last Beaver in the area (Corey Klemow) and a domesticated male Bunny (Bryan Krasner in bunny suit, with the grandiloquence and vocal gravitas of James Earl Jones) becomes the gay-rights answer to Animal Farm. The evil Mayor (Alyssa Preston) doubles as a taxidermist, which explains where all the other beavers have gone. And yes, she does have a song called “I’ve Never Met a Beaver That I Didn’t Want to Stuff.” Poor Jack (Joe Fria, with the hypnotic ability to distort his body into subtle contortions) has to given up drinkin’ and his frequently aroused girlfriend, Petunia (Laura Sperrazza, with dazzling vocal skill), in order to be sheriff. The Mayor’s petting-zoo project is merely a ruse to snag the last living beaver. There are all kinds of dots that barely connect, despite which the allegory becomes weirdly moving in Act 2. One subplot involves a literary conflict of interest as one of three narrators, sweet Pepper (Emily Pennington), struggles not to enter the story as she falls for one of the characters. I still can’t determine how well all this hangs together, but it’s undeniably entrancing and deceptively superficial. Director Scott Leggett knows exactly what he’s doing, the stage movement is sharp, and the onstage band, situated in the back of an old Ford pickup truck, is terrific, under composer Stapf’s musical direction. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 3. (323) 281-8337. (Steven Leigh Morris)

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Freak Dance: The Forbidden Dirty Boogaloo

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Beaverquest! The Musical

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You Don’t Know Me

 GO  CHICO’S ANGELS: CHICAS ARE FOREVER “Dis is like one of those Agatha Crispy movies,” gushes bubblehead detective Frieda Laye (Danny Casillas), referring to her fourth adventure with her fellow drag Angels, the flirt Kay Sedia (Oscar Quintero) and the egoistic Chita Parol (R. Garcia). A countess has lost her diamond to the sinister, smoking-jacketed Senior Crooke (Henry Watkins), and it’s up to the heavily accented ladies and Bossman (Alejandro Patino) to save the day. Camp with a twist of telenovela, Kurt Koehler’s riotous comedy (co-written with Quintero and James Edward Quinn) trusts in the ladies’ flouncing, vamping and squealing to carry the show. It does — and how — despite jokes staler than day-old taco shells and tension that had us on the edge of our seat only when Frieda’s dress hiked perilously short during the cancan. Even with a ventriloquist stripper on the bill and a chase sequence set to Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga,” the beruffled Kay dominates the show, and not just because the combined mass of her wig and the paper flowers stuck in it takes up half the stage. And when she and the gang lose it and giggle at their own ridiculousness, the audience only claps harder. CASITA DEL CAMPO, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Thurs. & Sun., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; thru May 4. (323) 969-2530. A Shiny Kumquat production. (Amy Nicholson)

THEATER PICK  FREAK DANCE: THE FORBIDDEN DIRTY BOOGALOO Much of the propulsion in Matt Besser’s dance confection comes from the great breakdance interludes by the Bad Newz Bearz crew (Joel Lara, Jose D. Martinez, Ernie Rodriguez, Isaac Lara and Jesus Corla). The rest derives from Besser’s comic-book satire of self-righteous programs claiming to use the arts to get kids off drugs. Our hero, Funky Bunch (Michael Cassady), sports a DARE T-shirt and tries to rally a clan of inner-city youth led by an aging homey (Hal Rudnick) who suffers the effects of a brain injury from dancing on the ceiling, as well as the complete evisceration of his penis from too much friction with the ground. There’s even a rich girl (Megan Lynam) — “I’m not so rich that I can’t learn to be poor.” They hunker down in an abandoned office and rehearse their dance moves. Enter the Building Inspector (Besser), in the colonial attire of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, slapping them with a $2K fine. How to endure? A dance contest, of course, pitting their slick moves against the sleazy lap-dance gyrations of their opponents, the Dazzles, led by Drew Droege and featuring Allan McLeod, in a mentally impaired turn that looks like Christopher Walken with a high-pitched manic laugh. Dance-bulge codpieces are like visual centerpieces adorning the actors, under Lindsay Hendrickson’s perfect direction. Brian Fountain and Jake Anthony wrote the music. Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hlywd.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 908-8702.


IN THE WINGS Jerry Sroka’s tepid seriocomic backstage drama follows the parallel lives of six actors and their roles in a play-within-a-play about a childless couple’s desperate attempts to conceive. While Sroka’s script indicates the troupe is involved in a highly financed Equity production, everything about the environment shouts cheap waiver. A few remarkable acting moments brighten the outing, including a very entertaining “star turn” by vain TV star Tony, played with arrogance and intellectual honesty by Will Schaub. The most interesting moments come from ageless actress Mariette Hartley, playing a very similar thespian role as Mary — the wise stage veteran who suffers through a stream of small roles while undercut by the battling of writer-director Sam (Dan Hagen) and his wife, Julie (Annette Reid). (Julie produces and suddenly stars in the production.) Ultimately, this relationship leads to real poignancy by the end — but too late to save the evening. Myriad insipid comic moments, including an overabundance of Groucho imitations and old movie references, become exceedingly tedious, and the real director, Don Eitner, is unable to bring the disparate elements together to create a convincing dramatic event. Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; no show April 26; thru May 11. (323) 960-7735 or (Tom Provenzano) GO MY FAIR LADY Some musicals just keep on giving. So it is with this touring production of Lerner and Loewe’s decades-old classic. Despite some shortfalls, it still charms and bedazzles. The story, adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, tells the plight of Eliza, a poor cockney flower girl who is transformed into a courtly princess by the determined linguist Henry Higgins. This revival showcases jaw-droppingly beautiful costumes and lavish sets. But it soars on the angelic voice and alluring presence of Lisa O’Hare in the role of Eliza. Her singing is rapturous, and her performance near perfect. Not quite as impressive is Christopher Cazenove’s Henry Higgins, who comes off as intermittently droll and unstudied. Trevor Nunn’s stagecraft displays skillful precision as he marshals this huge cast around onstage. But there are lapses in the ensemble numbers: Sometimes the singing comes across as mechanical or strained. During “With a Little Bit of Luck,” which features a troupe of dancers clanging away with trash-can lids attached to their feet, I counted two instances where one of the dancers nearly fell. Such glitches fortunately couldn’t torpedo this thoroughly enjoyable revival. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru April 27. (213) 628-2772. (Lovell Estell III)

SHOWING OUR AGE Performed by a six-person ensemble under Laurel Ollstein and Theresa Chavez’s direction, this docudrama dramatizes a patchwork of stories about the lives of senior citizens from many corners of the globe. The spine of the piece is Ollstein’s fictional story of a middle-aged woman named Grace (Rose Portillo), who finds herself caregiver to the philandering father (Ramon Hilario) she barely knew as a child. Smartly written and with Portillo’s spirited and drolly sympathetic performance, set off by the credibly cantankerous Hilario, it’s a well-paced, engaging take on a complex social problem. While Ollstein’s front-and-center plot is sharp and focused, some of the other material is not — music-laced monologues and skits based on real-life interviews written by Ollstein and other company members. The narratives are vivid enough: They include a Jewish guy (Kevin Sifuentes) reminiscing on buying kosher chicken in East L.A.; an unhappily married woman (Melody Butiu) who found true love in a bar; a transcriber at the Nuremberg trials (Bernadette Sullivan) who married a Holocaust survivor (Ralph Cole Jr.); and, most heart-rending, a Japanese woman (Butiu) rummaging through the ashes after Hiroshima. But tech elements, including a distracting set and indifferent lighting, undercut the performers’ efforts. Often the seemingly under-rehearsed monologues are addressed to Portillo’s movie-developer character rather than confidingly to the audience — a directorial choice that dilutes both the punch and the pathos. INSIDE THE FORD, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, L.A.; Wed.-Thurs., 11 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 27. (323) 461-3673. An About Company Production. (Deborah Klugman)


Val Dillman

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The Time of Your Life

Ed Krieger

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In the Wings

Gina Ortez

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Chico’s Angels

THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE  Do not take your recovering-alcoholic relative to see William Saroyan’s 1940 Pulitzer Prize–winning drama. Aside from the ensemble piece’s meandering plot, it takes place in the universe’s seemingly most pleasant lowbrow gin joint that also celebrates dipsomania. Wealthy businessman Joe (Robb Derringer) is a fixture at the cheesy San Francisco tavern run by jovial barkeep Nick (Christopher Shaw), who keeps a gimlet eye on the human flotsam that parades through his door. Although we’re not sure where the well-off Joe has gotten his money, he uses it for sheer pleasure, shelling out chunks of it on toys, chewing gum, champagne, and funds for his sad-faced pal, Tom (Matt McTighe), to woo his golden-hearted prostitute sweetheart, Kitty (Shiva Rose). Director Matt McKenzie’s colorful and atmospheric production is staged in honor of Saroyan’s 100th anniversary. The play’s awkward mix of the maudlin, the turgid, and rambling bloat has aged poorly. That said, McKenzie’s crisp and energetic staging is powerful and intermittently moving — and the show is blessed with a number of sympathetic performers. Derringer is all charm and optimistic affability as Joe, while Shaw, equal parts best friend and ambivalent Mephistopheles, is the perfect publican. Deft turns are also offered by the supporting cast, a brilliant collection of the kind of weathered-faced souls you’d find on Skid Row. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 1. (310) 822-8392. (Paul Birchall) GO  YOU DON’T KNOW ME As the title of playwright-poet Patricia Zamorano’s Chicana coming-of-age tale suggests, there is much that her hardscrabble East L.A. characters choose not to reveal to each other — or even to themselves. For 17-year-old Santa (Erika Beas), it is her budding poetry talent and longing for her best friend, Sonia (Alma Deras); for Santa’s mother, Jovita (Jennifer Lora), it is the demons she tries to keep at bay with drugs, booze and sex. Like her play’s denizens, Zamorano’s heartfelt work is rough around the edges, which has its benefits. Director Emmanuel Deleage elicits sturdy performances from most of his cast, though Beas doesn’t display the emotional range needed for Santa’s angst-driven journey. Problematic also are the unlikely contradictions of Zamorano’s characters, such as the alternating disgust at and encouragement of Jovita’s drug use by her dope dealer/lover Joey (Eddie Diaz). What keeps it all appealing, though, is the interspersing of Santa’s fiery and deeply revealing poetry, verses that could well serve as her ticket out of the barrio. Opening the evening is Zamorano’s short play Juvy Sunday, also directed by Deleage, a spoken-word monologue concerning an adolescent juvenile-hall inmate (Maggie Gutierrez) yearning for her mother’s weekly visit. CASA 0101, 2009 E. First St., Boyle Heights; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 4. (323) 263-7684 (Martín Hernández)

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