Theater Reviews: Hair, Girl, 20, Leap

I WAS A TEENAGE HOMO! This schizophrenic musical, with book and lyrics by Jeff Scott and Bill Fagan, and music by Scott, crosses I Was a Teenage Werewolf with a 1970s coming-out story. Rock (Tripp Pickell) is an all-American boy who picks fights with every guy he meets because he can’t admit he’s sexually attracted to them. Prissy and pretentious gay therapist Dr. Rorschach (Michael Merton) and his nurse (Thomas Crawford), attempt to liberate Rock’s gay inner self via hypnosis, poppers and Judy Garland records. They turn him into a serial stylist who stalks his peers and gives them enforced make-overs. The high school dance is transformed into “The Night of 1000 Judys,” with most of the characters dressed as Garland characters. The script, directed by Mary McGuire, offers an endless array of gay clichés and stereotypes, lame jokes, broad mugging, ham-fisted knockabout comedy and a lackluster score. Pickell gamely acts out all the jangling aspects of Rock’s personality with skill and a certain charm, but his indestructibly masculine persona gives the lie to the whole proceedings. By presenting its homosexual characters as trivial, sinister or both, this could set back gay liberation for years. Theatre Neo at THE SECRET ROSE THEATRE, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 13. (323) 769-5858. (Neal Weaver)

LEAP is what happens when a sitcom writer hits a metaphysical crisis — at least that’s the plot of Arnold Margolin’s comedy, which contains some very funny one-liners about Hollywood amidst a stream of joke-laced ruminations about what having a soul actually means. Bob Kanicki’s (Michael Kagan) leap from the eighth floor of a New York brownstone gets thwarted first by Bub (Adam Conger), a highly wound and stunningly ignorant Columbia University undergrad, who’s double-dipping as an agent for the devil, bidding to have Bob sign over his soul before the mortal plunge; and then by Bub’s rival, Anna (Emily Stapleton), a goofy angel who shows up holding a broken wing. She’s Bob’s first love, dearly departed in every sense of that phrase, and now back from on high for a rescue attempt. I found the endeavor sweet and lame, lacking characters with depth and a reason to care. The one-liners are sometimes amusing and revealing of behavioral minutia, but they do foil one’s engagement in the play’s deeper inquiry. Bob says he aches to write one profound sentence before he dies — almost as much as we ache to hear one. Kagan’s Bob is just fine, Conger’s obsequious, high-pitched Bub sent me into a dither of annoyance, and Stapleton’s wind-up doll Anna causes one to reflect that if heaven is an episode of Love, American Style, which is where she seems to have come from, then burning in hell really isn’t such a bad alternative. Susan Morgenstern directs. FALCON THEATER, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 13. (818) 955-8101. (Steven Leigh Morris)

SKIN OF HONEY The Cuban revolution provides the backdrop for Odalys Nanín’s play about lesbian lovers. Two school girls, Amelia and Isabel (Lidiya Korotko and Andrea Rueda) pledge eternal love, but after the brief imprisonment of Amelia’s father (Ray Michaels Quiroga) by Castro, Amelia reluctantly leaves Cuba for Miami with her family. In contrast, Isabel is a Fidelista, who eventually becomes one of Castro’s mistresses. Many years later, the adult Amelia (playwright Nanín) visits Cuba and resumes her affair with the now-adult Isabel (Susan Artigas). Plans to smuggle Isabel out of the country unfold — and then unravel. Robert Tena provides some much-needed comic relief as the cross-dressing Yani, but he needs to turn the volume down a notch. Korotko, on the other hand, sleepwalks through her part. While Yani’s arrest effectively underscores the dangers to gays in a country where homosexuality is illegal, some of the dialogue is overly didactic, slowing the drama and creating pacing problems. The flashbacks have been smoothly incorporated into the narrative thanks in part to Mia Torres’ clever set design. Playwright-performer Nanín and Alejandra Flores co-direct. MACHA THEATRE (formerly The Globe), 1107 N. Kings Road, W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 28. (323) 654-0680. (Sandra Ross)

SUFFRAGETTE KOANS “The difference between a fable and a koan is that a fable tells you the moral,” instructs one of Linda Carson’s five turn-of-the-20th-century heroines. It’s odd to see a Victorian miss folded into the lotus position, but Carson’s ladies aren’t the usual wan submissives that we’ve come to expect from that era. Rather, they’re bursting with life, lust and questions. For the five, played with gusto by June Raphael, Karyn Dwyer, Kirstin Hinton, Kim Kuhteubl and Pasha McKenley, every needlepoint session is a chance to gossip in euphemistic code about their randy dreams. Botany and woodworking bring a flush to their cheeks, and bicycling, well, whew. What lingers after this ultrashort whirl of sketches, directed by Joyce Piven, is a fresh idea of womanhood as it readied itself to strip off the corsets; not flat images of sepia-toned dames but flesh-and-blood women capable of nodding modestly at the vicar while, in their own way, reaching out for all the joy and knowledge they can grab. LITTLE VICTORY THEATRE, 3324 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Oct. 7. (818) 841-5422. (Amy Nicholson)

SYLVIE Jovanka Bach’s play centers on a disturbed young woman, Sylvie (Gillian Brashear), with an insatiable need for love, which she seeks in all the wrong places. She invites a flirtation with a married man (Jaret Sacrey, who also designed the handsome set), then despairs when he refuses to leave his wife. She takes up with a chubby, loud-mouthed fabric salesman with low self-esteem (John Combs) who offers her presents rather than commitment. She begins an affair with an ambitious sculptor (Brian Knudson), but grows jealous and resentful of his work. When she discovers she’s pregnant, she abandons all three men and goes into hiding. (Neither she nor the men seem to know who’s the father.) She’s befriended by a young furniture maker (Danny Dolan), but rejects him to stew in her own misery. Though Bach’s intentions are undoubtedly serious, they’re disconcertingly vague. Confusion is further compounded when the play concludes with a fantasy scene involving the furniture maker and an imaginary Sylvie. We never know where the story is going, so it neither jells nor resonates. The cast is capable and hard working, and director John Stark provides a smooth production, but it doesn’t help that Sylvie retains her improbably spectacular coiffeur through all her tribulations. John Stark Productions at the ODYSSEY THEATRE, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 7. (310) 477-2055. (Neal Weaver)

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