Theater Reviews: Regretrosexual, 1776
GO THE BOYCHICK AFFAIR: THE BAR MITZVAH OF HARRY BOYCHICK Where's Harry? All the guests have arrived, but bar mitzvah boy Harry (Greg Mikurak) and his father, Aaron (Barry Papick), have gotten lost on their way to the temple. The pregnant New Age rabbi (Janice Markham) is in a dither, as is Harry's mother, Cheryl (writer-director Amy Lord). While cousin Soraii (Rebecca Silberman) "entertains" the waiting guests with off-key renditions of show tunes, man-hungry Grandma Betty (Sheila Oaks) goes on the prowl, as Aunt Rita (Cheryl David) gets an early start on the vodka. The wait for Harry allows the audience to mix freely with the actors in Lord's hilarious interactive comedy about a dysfunctional family. When the bar mitzvah boy finally arrives, we're treated to a rendition of Hebrew prayers set to a rap beat. Following the bar mitzvah, the audience is ushered into a ballroom to be entertained by the cheesy musical duo the Lizards (Sam Crouppen and Alissa-Nicole Koblentz), who succeed in getting most of the audience to dance. As the performance progresses, there is escalating verisimilitude — it becomes increasingly difficult to tell audience members from cast members, much to Lord's credit as writer and director. Lisa Clumeck's colorful costumes add humor to the show, with lots of visible bra straps and other fashion disasters. Hayworth Theater, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., Westlake; Sun., 2 p.m.; indef. (800) 838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com. (Sandra Ross)
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Regretosexual: The Love Story
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The World's Largest Rodent
GO CHICANO REHAB Y MAS The San Diego–based comedy troupe Teatro Izcalli scores high with earthy satirical skits that skewer and embrace Chicana/o stereotypes. A smarmy TV pitchman (Mike Slomanson) offers a "Chicano Kit" — complete with a 30-year anniversary MeCHA T-shirt — to a student (Jose Alvarez) whose peers think he is not Chicano enough. "Educacion" presents an old-school macho Mexican (Macedonio Arteaga Jr., channeling Tim Conway) trying to keep his feisty daughter (Iyari Arteaga) from attending USC. "Juan More Beer" offers a group of goofy activists enlisting the spirit of General Ignacio Zaragoza (Hector Villegas), hero of the 1862 victory over the French, against the commercialization of the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo, commemorating that battle. And "Chicano Rehab," the best bit, dramatizes a 13-step session for zealous Chicanas/os led by a Frida Kahlo look-alike (Claudia Cuevas). There's a student (Iyari Arteaga) who may never graduate from college due to her political activism, a radical feminista (Alicia Chavez-Arteaga) whose outward belligerence belies a secret longing, and some other quirky folk. While written by Macedonio Arteaga Jr., the show credits no director, which is evident in some listless staging and the need for judicious editing. Nevertheless, Teatro Izcalli is terrific, even for the Spanglish-impaired. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., Boyle Heights; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 2. (323) 263-7684. (Martin Hernandez)
GO L'EFFLEUR DES SENS means "flirting with the senses," and choreographer-director Cati Jean has MC Gregg guide us through this French-style cabaret that consists of nine fleshy, erotic dances performed by the host and a bevy of seven beauties with jaw-dropping precision. The girlie-magazine fantasies that the dances conjure border on the fetishistic, with jail-stripe thigh-highs and lingerie, cigarette smoke (in a city that bans puffing in clubs, so smoking has become something of a clandestine fantasy), legs that go all the way up, torsos that subtly sway while the doll-faced women bear expressions of calculated disinterest, or come-hither stares. One dancer cavorts behind a rope net; an aerialist hangs by her ankles from a swath of red silk. Gregg parades through the audience, goading men and women to tell their own fantasies. In the performance I attended, they did so, reluctantly. Gregg goaded them to be more explicit, which either got the job done (one woman admitted she wanted to be tied up and ravished) or led to understandable awkwardness. Though private anatomy remained concealed, private desires did not. The cabaret is a display of old-school sexuality, which is its point. Gregg's improvised humor borders on the puerile, but the dancers' physical dexterity, training and skill are beyond reproach. King King, 6555 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs., March 6 & 20, April 3 & 17, May 1, 15 & 29, 9 p.m. (323) 960-9234 or www.kingkinghollywood.com. (Steven Leigh Morris)
GIRL, YOUR HAIR'S ON FIRE! SEASON 2 Apparently, you don't need to have seen Season 1 to jump into Andrea Sabesin's entertaining one-woman show. Sabesin wears cliche like a favorite sweater: A single, Jewish actress from Chicago by way of Memphis struggles to make it in Hollywood while enduring the toils of food service and a procession of childhood friends swallowed up by marriage and parenthood. However, where a lesser performer might zing and punch for the laughs, Sabesin finds new and interesting ways to extract gems from oft-mined material, usually because the details are just so strange — her food-service job isn't catering or waitressing, it's driving gourmet meals from restaurants to rich people; her gastroenterologist father likes to break into Sondheim; her pregnant friend carves out "together time" by dragging her to a pre-/postnatal yoga class. Also, her show style, under the direction of David Downs, is so earnest and welcoming, the overall effect is less like another one-woman show in Hollywood and more like hanging out with an exceptionally funny friend. ACME Comedy Theater, 135 N. La Brea Ave., Hlywd.; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru March 11. (323) 822-1146 or www.andreasabesin.com. (Luis Reyes)
I'M YOUR GIRL Depressive Catherine (Lori Allen Thomas) drives off a bridge. Her boyfriend, Mantello (Jeffrey Wylie, with a scuzzy mustache), knew Catherine was suicidal. But her bitter husband, Jensen (Elliott Williams), is stuck on the two bullet holes in Catherine's passenger window and her last-minute will that left everything to the caddish Mantello, who claims he never even knew her last name. As Catherine's ghost opens the play in a monologue referring to the night she died as a "miracle," we're a step ahead of these two men's realization that they never understood the fragile, unhinged dreamer. But sometimes it feels like Amy Tofte's play doesn't get her either, as Catherine veers from admitting her death wish was a mistake to blissful Zen talk about the peace she found in renouncing hope. In flashbacks, several moments capture the pain and desperation of failing relationships, though the truth of these scenes is diluted by other moments of extreme symbolism: When Jensen confronts Mantello after dredging the lake for the gun, he pulls a leech off his neck and glowers, "I knew I felt something sucking out my life." David Watkins Jr. directs the temporal, spectral and emotional shifts with care, but can't resist encouraging Wylie and Williams to stutter and to stumble into furniture when confronted by their ghost lover. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 9. (310) 201-0064. (Amy Nicholson)
OTHELLO Director Lisa Wolpe sets Shakespeare's passionate play in 1930s Fascist Italy, illuminating little of its complexity. From the outset, Fran Bennett's title character fails to radiate the wisdom, nobility or charisma that might attract his wife, Desdemona (Nell Geisslinger) — many decades his junior — or the soldiers under his command who profess to admire him. When events turn dark, this Othello responds querulously rather than with noble rage. Wolpe's Iago is a cerebral fellow whose hatred of the Moor — the play's driving force — shows up in his face but doesn't permeate his being. Kimberleigh Aarn's generic Cassio lacks the charm that might threaten other men, and so spur the gullible Othello to a jealous rage. And as Iago's wife and Desdemona's lady in waiting, Katrinka Wolfson despoils a juicy cameo by hyperbolizing her indignation at Desdemona's murder, rather than building a viable and moving relationship with her mistress (and with Iago) prior to the event. Only Geisslinger lands on target, as a gracious and ladylike Desdemona who later persuasively pleads for her life. Wolpe makes adept use of the production's technical elements, which include Susan Gratch's set, Jaymi Lee Smith's lighting and Kari Rae Seekins' sound. Together, they furnish an impressive framework for this less-than-compelling drama. Theater @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 23. (626) 683-6883. A Women's Shakespeare Company Production. (Deborah Klugman)
Keith Ian Polakoff
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The Saint Plays
RAVENSRIDGE Fremont Centre Theatre, South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 20. (866) 811-4111. See Stage feature.
THEATER PICK REGRETROSEXUAL: THE LOVE STORY In his desperate attempts to adapt to any situation, straight comedian Dan Rothenberg spent two years in San Francisco dating men so he wouldn't face rejection from his best friend, who was just coming out of the closet. This is only the most bizarre of Rothenberg's neuroses, all of which he let spill in his earlier, one-man show about this gay period ("not a phase"). Two years later his equally psychologically damaged wife, Colleen Crabtree, joins him to create this touching and hilarious two-hander that follows their courtship. Rothenberg swears to the audience that he is going to be up-front with Crabtree about his sexual experiment, until for a very specific reason she yells at him one day, "Just don't be gay!" While serious relationship issues develop between these two broken characters, the actors (playing themselves) are so likable, attractive and funny that the evening is a joy. Crabtree is especially amusing as she caricatures Rothenberg's family and friends — most painfully, his mother. Richard Kuhlman's light director's touch switches directions whenever the play begins to move toward either bathos or goofiness. A simple but flexible set of colorful wooden cutouts by Alex Hutton is quite effective — and gives Rothenberg a few good laughs as he winks at the audience about the cleverness of the set design. Hudson Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 15. (323) 960-7822 or www.plays411.com/regretrosexual.
GO THE SAINT PLAYS Here's a futile attempt to describe a kind of beauty that's really indescribable, because the evening described is the essence of the irrational, and a review is supposed to be a stab at reason. Playwright Eric Ehn is a wordsmith who employs language to shatter reason in search of more meaningful reflections in the shards. He has taken the legends of five saints — Joan of Arc (Rowena Johnson), Rose of Lima (Anna Steers), George (Arber R. Mehmeti), Barbara (Deborah Lazor), and the world premiere of a play about St. Dymphna (Rowena Johnson). Five playlets, each based on one of the saints — respectively, "Wholly Joan's," "Una Carrona," "The Freak," "Radio Elephant" and "Color Drums" — have been sculpted together by director Anne Justine D'Zmura onto a giant sand pit within this cavernous armory. Scaffolding abounds. The audience is seated on bleachers above three sides of the action. We could just as well be watching a boxing match. With live percussion, shadow puppets, and a kind of raw, vivacious theatricality that blessedly avoids the use of video and other high-tech intrusions, the vigorous ensemble puts on something like a clown show, with tones ranging from the whimsical to the macabre. "Una Carrona" is set during the 1980s genocide in El Salvador, during which Jesuits and nuns were gunned down on the streets. "The Freak" takes as its centerpiece a sweet Scandinavian girl named Gunna (Jocelyn Hall), in 1957, who inexplicably sprouts wings. The saga is told by a narrator (Beth Froehlich), which makes it one of two playlets that wrestle with the process by which experience rolls into fantasy en route to becoming legend. "Color Dream" is the most terse of the quintet — a challenging way to close out an evening that's richly textured with choreography and music, an extended fantasia and meditation on love, and despair and faith, and our quest to believe in something immortal, if not to be immortal ourselves. National Guard Armory, 854 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Tues.-Thurs., 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 15. (562) 985-5526 or www.calrep.org. A California Repertory Company production. (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO 1776 Events of June and July in the American Continental Congress of 1776 are laid out in Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards' 1969 musical with droll wit that recalls Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America: The Early Years, Volume 1, a comic musical history for radio released in 1961. Firebrand John Adams (Bruce Ladd), wise old reprobate Ben Franklin (Larry Lederman, in a lovely, crusty turn) and Thomas Jefferson (Ben Hensely) are the centerpieces here for the saga of Adams' frustrated attempts to persuade a very reluctant congress to declare independence from Great Britain, while a Redcoat armada is en route to New York and General George Washington keeps sending despondent military dispatches from the field. The musical is a glorious dissection of democratic ineptitude, of the clash between self-interest and unity. Franklin finally pleads that Adams yield to South Carolina's Edward Rutledge's (Stephen Van Dorn) demand that the institution of slavery remain intact in the new nation, in exchange for revolution against Britain being endorsed by the entire Deep South. In the play, Jefferson says he's going to release all his slaves, to which Rutledge sneers in contempt, and so we get an easy template for the liberality of our Founding Fathers versus a stubborn, inhumane South. In fact, it was Rutledge who freed his slaves immediately after the congress depicted in this play, whereas Jefferson freed his slaves years later, only after his death (in his will), and only a small number of them. This is one instance where the truth is actually more interesting than the legend. There are some thin voices, but Richard Israel's staging of the fine ensemble is sprightly and tart, Allison Bibicoff's choreography comes filled with good humor, and Johanna Kent's musical direction has a tenderness that's just right. Crossley Theater, 1760 N. Gower St., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 16. (323) 462-8460 or www.actorsco-op.org. An Actors Co-op production. (Steven Leigh Morris)
THE WORLD'S LARGEST RODENT The title of Don Zolidis' comedy refers to the capybara, a kind of guinea-pig colossus found in South America. This tailless beast is the subject of a junior high school PowerPoint presentation that lands nerdy Billy (Andy Gobienko) in trouble from the start. PowerPoint title slides also introduce us to various low points of Billy's existence, including a family that consists of a porn-model sister, Meg (Kim McKean), and a mother (Mary Carrig) whose failed suicide attempt has left her comatose. "Zany" is writ large for this world premiere, as Billy meets a series of wacky characters: a moon-faced Christian teen named Chastity (Aria Noelle Curzon), Latin Lothario Reynaldo (Vincent Giovanni) and an alky priest (Kelly Van Kirk). The play's episodic structure, though, leaves us with the feeling of watching an overly long evening of unconnected sketches. Billy has some definite wants, including getting to first base with Chastity, reviving his vegetative mom, and coming to terms with his runaway dad (Van Kirk), who appears before Billy as a man-size capybara (startling fur suit by costume designer Lauren Tyler). Mere desires don't translate into a plot, however, and so when a certain denouement occurs, such as one character declaring she's a lesbian, it doesn't mean anything — it's just a line blurted out in an evening full of them. On the bright side, the ensemble, under Tom Ormeny's direction, has fun with the material, and Gobienko is likable in the lead role. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru April 13. (818) 841-5421. (Steven Mikulan)
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