ANAÏS: AN EROTIC EVENING WITH ANAÏS NIN The famously candid diaries of Anaïs Nin avoid one weekend in the '50s, when she left L.A. for a weekend in Arizona, purpose unknown. Sonia Maslovskaya's one-woman show — written and directed by Michael Phillips — imagines that Nin secretly visited a sanitarium housing June Miller, the calculating beauty who anchored one end of Nin's love triangle with author Henry Miller. (Nin's own cuckolded husband, Hugo, was a bystander.) The lithe Maslovskaya vamps in vintage dress as she accounts Nin's sexual awakening — and humbling — in 1930s Paris at the hands of the two Millers in imagined conversations with June's therapist, Henry and, later, June herself. Anaïs is a tale of love dangled just out of reach and a florid, earnest feat of memorization by Maslovskaya, but it's a little too self-conscious to seduce the audience. The one-sided dialogue cripples the play as performed alone: Nin seems less like a besotted, swayed suitor and more like a narcissistic chatterbox. Tellingly, this unflappable eroticist is most taken aback when the therapist says he's never heard of her. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N.Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 15. (818) 506-9863. (Amy Nicholson)
GO BEAST ON THE MOON Richard Kalinoski's tender play centers on two survivors of the Armenian genocide. Aram Tomasian (Zadran Walli) witnessed the beheading of his entire family. Now he's escaped from Turkey to Milwaukee and set himself up as a photographer. He's obsessed with producing a family to replace the one he lost, and has ordered a 15-year-old picture bride, Seta (Olga Konstantulakis), from an Armenian orphanage. She's profoundly grateful to him for rescuing her via a proxy marriage, but she too is traumatized. She saw her mother crucified, and her sister raped by a Turkish soldier, so she's terrified of sex. And Aram is fanatically determined to duplicate the rigid authoritarianism of his dead father. Kalinoski sensitively calibrates the stages by which a difficult alliance between two oddly matched people becomes a real marriage. Walli brings to his role a boyish charm, which tempers his arrogant rigidity, while Konstantulakis skillfully traces the arc from terrified teenager to strong, resilient woman. John Cirigliano is engaging as both an older gentleman who tells their story and his younger self — an orphan boy befriended by Seta. Sarah Register provides the authentic-seeming period clothes. The Marilyn Monroe Theatre at the Lee Strasberg Creative Center, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., W.Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru Oct. 17. Produced by Malabar Hill Films. (323) 960-7784; plays411.com/beast. (Neal Weaver)
DAVID: THE MUSICAL When reviewing the premiere of a new musical, one must be ever cognizant of the amount of work that has gone into its creation. Fully scored, booked and staged musicals take an almost astonishing amount of effort and audacity to execute — and this can be all the more upsetting when the outcome is as misbegotten as is this near-incoherent adaptation of the story of the Old Testament's King David, his seduction of the beautiful Bathsheba, and his despair over his wayward sons Absalom and Amnon. Or, at least, that appears to be what the musical is about: Director Adam T. Rosencrance's production is in modern dress, which is not necessarily an unimaginative idea, but the presentation of the story is utterly without context — the biblical incidents are merely strung together with little dramatic development, psychological subtext or convincing emotion. One moment, Dane Bowman's oddly wooden David is crowned king, the next he's seducing Sara Collins' almost comically Valley girl–like Bathsheba. Other performers take on multiple roles, but the character changes are disjointed and without explanation, often accomplished merely by an actor donning a new jacket or shirt but not changing his actual personality. Thus, we start to wonder why David's servant Caleb (Austin Grehan) is suddenly one of the assassins plotting his demise, or why David's son Amnon (J.D. Driskill) shows up as a spear-carrying soldier in the Hittite army. The score, credited to Costanza, Tim Murner, Rich Lyle and Michelle Holmes, is a workmanlike mix of heavy-metal rock anthems and hard country ballads ably rendered by the rock band Pullman Standard, but the numbers are all lyric-driven, and the singing is miserably drowned out by the hyperamplified sound system. More dismaying than the lack of coherence, though, is the lack of Goliath, who is barely mentioned in the play and whose absence seems like a painfully missed dramatic opportunity — like trying to tell the story of World War II without a Nazi. Some of the show's early production flaws may iron themselves out over the course of the run; one of the main actors was still lugging his script about like a Torah throughout the entire performance, for example. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. brownpapertickets.com. (Paul Birchall)
GO THE GLASS MENAGERIE Director Gordon Edelstein's dynamic, iconoclastic revival of Tennessee Williams' revered, 1944 memory play arrives at the Mark Taper Forum trailing a tempest of controversy. Edelstein's greatest liberty — and, to traditionalists, his most brazen and polarizing sacrilege — is to reconceive the narrative from the point of view of an older, more worldly Tom Wingfield (a riveting Patch Darragh) in the act of writing the play. Tom's famous "tricks in my pocket" opening monologue here is delivered at the typewriter, haltingly, the words captured in the moment of inspiration on Michael Yeargan's austerely appointed, wallpaper-scrim, one-room set that doubles for the Wingfield's St. Louis tenement apartment. The conceit may not be strictly Williams, but by foregrounding the action with this potent reminder of the autobiographical dimensions lurking behind the drama, Edelstein succeeds in repainting the bittersweet Wingfield family portrait as a fascinating portrait of the artist in which Williams' alter ego, Tom, shares center stage. As such, Judith Ivey's matriarch, Amanda, is nothing short of a triumph. In Ivey's hands, the smothering, narcissistic, faded Southern belle is energized with heretofore unrealized notes of wit and charm — just the sort of overpowering personality capable of crushing a fragile, sensitive ego like Laura (the fine Keira Keeley) or igniting the artistic genius of her more resilient son. The payoff to Edelstein's invention comes in the "gentleman caller" scene, whose original pathos is delivered with the additional ironic wink that all three Wingfields are vying for the romantic attentions of the lunkheaded Jim (Ben McKenzie). Jennifer Tipton's moody, low-key lighting and Martin Pakledinaz's outstanding costumes complete what may not be an orthodox Menagerie but one that may just be definitive. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Sun., Sept. 12, 7 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (213) 628-2772. (Bill Raden)
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GO THE GOOD BOY Everybody has at least one vivid recollection of their parents saying something so mortifying, they wanted to die. Michael Bonnabel, on the other hand, has vivid recollections of the inverse — two deaf parents reared him and his four siblings. His solo-performance piece regarding his growing up co-existing in silence and in sound is touching; fittingly, quietly so. With his straightforward and funny writing style, Bonnabel offers frank admissions ("The sound of their voices was always jarring.") and the ability to mimic his parents without mocking them. These qualities humanize his fond memoir while preventing it from becoming cloying. Memories of dancing jubilantly with his sister to a blaring "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" spliced with those of examining and reporting his embarrassed mother's medical problems to her doctor are affecting signs of the "guilt and pressure" he felt because "we could hear and they couldn't." In his performance, Bonnabel employs a sweet tenor, speech, sign language and deft timing to flit as delicately as his hands from story to story, refusing to linger on any remembrance too long simply to elicit emotion. This butterfly-quick fluttering is only a detriment, ironically, in his spoken pacing: The tales are so compelling you want to hear every word, and at times end up racing after to catch them. Ultimately, though, the payoff is worth the chase. When he does finally land and pause on the climax, it's a moment of such unexpected devastation, the audience audibly gasps. Bootleg Theatre, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (213) 389-3856. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
LA VIE EN ROUTE Written by Mark Harvey Levin and directed by Carlos Martinez, these seven vignettes show flashes of promise, but the end product is a disappointment. Apparent from the outset is a startling dearth of narrative coherency and imagination in the writing, the upside being energetic cast performances. "School of Thought," which opens the bill, is nothing more than a chaotic gathering of actors posing as fish. "Ladies of the Evening" is a bit better, with Tasi McGuire (who performs well throughout) as a call girl on the make and Josh Morrison playing the role of the mark. "Cabfare for the Common Man" takes up a similar theme but is a mess from start to finish, with Morrison stuck in a cab packed with a zany assortment of characters, including some sexy gals, during a night out. The most inspiring thing here is the crusty, garrulous cabbie, played by David Shackelford, who returns in the best-written, funniest piece of the night, "The Rental." Here, Shackelford portrays a paid boy toy for a lonely woman (Alexis Kupka). "Superhero" makes a descent into bludgeoning tedium with Jude Evans as a caped do-gooder in a strange encounter with Rachel (Deidre Moore). "L.A. 8. A.M," is no better, with Evans and Dana Bretz as a couple navigating the boredom of their morning routine. "Prodigal Cow" has Moore and McGuire in a dull riff on certain kinds of food. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru Oct. 2. (818) 849-4039. (Lovell Estell III)
MARTYRDUMB It's difficult to pinpoint exactly where playwrights Kerr Seth Lordygan and Jason Britt's sophomoric cartoon of a madcap terrorism satire first crosses the not-so-fine line between provocative irreverence and repellent offensiveness. Suffice it to say that well before the intermission, the play's collection of crudely lampooned stereotypes racks up enough religious blasphemies to inspire a dozen fatwa denunciations, not to mention the host of homophobic slanders and misogynistic misdemeanors committed in the name of its ill-conceived, taboo-twisted gags. Act I follows blundering, plastique-packing religious fanatic Apneo (Patrick Alan) as he seizes the lobby of a business-park office building during a suicide-bombing attempt. Although not an Arab, the name of his nonsensical religious cult, Islormanology — an unsubtle amalgam of Islam and Scientology — leaves little doubt as to the intended target of the writers' ridicule. Despite the blundering and bickering attempts of Apneo's strangely accommodating hostages to talk the bomber out of his mission, the resulting, accidental detonation finds only security guard Nason (Mason Hallberg) surviving into Act 2. That's when Lordygan and Britt shift gears into a broad parody of a CSI-style police procedural, as the victims re-emerge as the bumbling investigators of the scatologically named antiterrorist unit F.A.R.T., with equally unsavory and catastrophic results. Director Maria Markosov only exacerbates an already witless text devoid of political or religious insight with her mistaken belief that louder and faster somehow equals funnier. A clever set by Marco De Leon and inventive lighting by John Dickey can do little to ameliorate this painful, shrill misfire. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (818) 508-3003. (Bill Raden)
GO STEPPING ON A FEW TOES What makes one person's story compelling and another's banal? Maybe it's what people call soul. In her involving one-woman show, writer-performer Jasmynne Shaye describes growing up as the emotionally and sexually abused child of a single mother, and her struggle to vanquish the demons bred of a lonely and loveless childhood. Like so many young Americans, Shaye, from first grade through her early teens, shared a decrepit housing-project apartment with her embittered mom and young sister, and her mom's various boyfriends. When life at home became unbearable, she was packed off to live with her dad, an icy, tightfisted man who turned his daughter into a housebound Cinderella. As is common in solo shows, Shaye portrays multiple characters; some depictions are crystal clear, others less so. Her narrative — rippling with accusatory recollections — is directed in part toward her invisible mother, in part out to the audience. Fortunately, juxtaposed with the painful memories are a few happier interludes brought on mostly by her dancing, in which she excelled. Ultimately what snares our interest is not the novelty of her story — sadly all too common — but the expressive, intrepid way in which she tells it. Under Jaimyon Parker's direction, some scene shifts in this bare-bones production are awkward, slowed by Shaye's frequent costume changes. Although these transitions need to be finessed, this is one case in which budget limitations and technical shortcomings are eclipsed by the performer's compelling voice. NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., N.Hlywd., Fri-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 3. (323) 347-8554 or steppingontoes.com (Deborah Klugman)