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Theater to See in L.A. This Week

Brian T. Finney stars in his own adaptation of Heart of Darkness

Jean-Louis DarvilleBrian T. Finney stars in his own adaptation of Heart of Darkness

Adapter-performer Brian T. Finney has adapted Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness in what Paul Birchall describes as "hypnotic." It's this week's pick of the week. Neal Weaver found charm and passion in Actors' Co-op's revival of The Miracle Worker. See below for all the latest new theater reviews.

David Mamet and Harold Pinter started out in what seemed like the same camp -- politically and aesthetically. You can see it by comparing Mamet's American Buffalo (now at Geffen Playhouse) to Pinter's The Dumb Waiter. So how could two playwrights with such a similar view of the human condition wind up with contrary views of what to do about it? The question is addressed in this week's theater feature.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication April 18, 2013:

AMERICAN BUFFALO A new stage adaptation of the 1977 Broadway classic by David Mamet, in

which out-of-luck and misguided misfits plot the theft of a rare coin

collection. See Stage Feature

Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.

Continues through May 12, $47-$77. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte

Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.

AMERICAN MISFIT

Maya Erskine and Karen Jean Olds

Ed KriegerMaya Erskine and Karen Jean Olds

A 1950s sock hop is the unlikely setting for playwright Dan Dietz's formally daring but sometimes bewildering meditation on this country's foundational heart of darkness. Based on the grisly, real-life predations of the Harpe brothers (Daniel MK Cohen, AJ Meijer), who terrorized Tennessee's backwoods in the 1790s, this fanciful ode to both Tocqueville and Sun Records employs a rockabilly-fueled original score (by Dietz and Phillip Owen), irreverent impersonations of famous founding fathers (by Larry Cedar and P.J. Ochlan) and a somewhat politicized reading of the Harpes to argue that, for better or worse, civilization -- and America in particular -- finds its richest expression in its most contrary and disruptive discontents. And if Dietz's nomadic reasoning holds more water as political theory than as engaging stage narrative, the combination of Michael Michetti's fertile direction, Lee Martino's thrilling swing choreography, Ann Closs-Farley's vividly imagined costumes and Omar D. Brancato's four-piece band (fronted by a smoldering Banks Boutté) goes a long way toward shoring up the leaks. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., May 8, 8 p.m.; through May 12. 626-683-6883, bostoncourt.com. (Bill Raden)

PICK OF THE WEEK: HEART OF DARKNESS In his

haunting, solo adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness,

playwright-actor Brian T. Finney navigates his craft directly through

the work's core themes of madness, imperialistic exploitation and, well,

the horror.  Finney reimagines the story as monologue, artfully

orchestrated by director Keythe Farley's psychologically nuanced and

ferociously energetic staging. Avoiding the pitfalls of intrusive, radio

drama-like narration, Finney and Farley offer a far more immersive

experience -- one that is fraught with eerie melancholy.  Finney,

caparisoned in traditional 19th-century explorer's garb, at first plays

the hero as a traditionally plummy, genially affable British sailor. But

as his character's voyage up the dark river of the Congo proceeds, and

he finds himself desperately interacting with the dangerously insane

station chief Kurtz, the performer takes on the lunacy of his

characters, creating a harrowing atmosphere with a stylized quality that

almost echoes Kabuki theater.  Set, sound effects and multimedia

visuals are almost characters in their own right: Sibyl Wickersheimer's

sole set backdrop, a series of three sails that fold in and out of each

other, turning into walls at one moment and screens for contextual

slides in others, is brilliantly effective. Actors' Gang, Ivy

Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through

May 18. (310) 838-4264, theactorsgang.com. (Paul Birchall)

 GO:  THE MIRACLE WORKER

Danielle Soibelman and Tara Battani

Lindsa SchneblyDanielle Soibelman and Tara Battani

There's always a danger of toppling into sentimentality when retelling a story as uplifting and inspirational as the saga of blind, deaf and dumb Helen Keller and her tough, determined teacher, Annie Sullivan. Playwright William Gibson avoids that pitfall by emphasizing the humor in the situation, the stubborn cantankerousness of Sullivan (Tara Battani) and the animal desperation of the child Helen (Danielle Soibelman). These actors bring visceral intensity to the battle of wits and will that erupts when Sullivan attempts to civilize the wild child, culminating in the ferocious battle over the breakfast table. Silverware flies and crockery smashes as Sullivan fights to reach the isolated girl with nothing more than physical restraint and the sense of touch. Sullivan's struggle is even harder because she also must fend off interference from an over-indulgent mother (Catherine Gray), a willful, blustering father and a cynical, doubting brother (Tony Christopher). There's occasional awkwardness in the production, due to the difficulty of shoehorning a large, multiscene production onto a small arena stage, but director Thom Babbes elicits fine performances from the five principals. Designer Mark Svastics provides the handsome, flexible sets. Crossley Theatre at Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. (added perfs Sat., April 20 & May 18, 2:30 p.m.); through May 19. (323) 462-8460, ext. 300, actorsco-op.org. (Neal Weaver) 

ORANGE FLOWER WATER In Craig Wright's 80-minute domestic drama, two Midwestern married couples face the dissolution of their marriages. David and Cathy Calhoun (Jeff Denton and Leslie Liberman) and Brad and Beth Youngquist (Mick Thyer and Sarah Ann Schultz) have been friends for a few years before David comes to the realization that he and Beth have been married to the wrong people and instigates an adulterous affair. Stephanie Feury demonstrates a sure directorial hand, opening the play with a tableau vivant depicting all four characters frozen in each corner of the single set -- a multipurpose bedroom -- implying a boxing-ring battleground for the acrimonious fight that is to come. Soon thereafter, Feury stages a scene of impatient lust literally behind the back of the cuckolded wife, Cathy, as she departs for a work trip. Wright's dull dialogue ploddingly charts the couples' histrionics but is somewhat redeemed by an ineffably beautiful concluding monologue. Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre and Acting Conservatory, 5636 Melrose Ave., Hlywd.; Wed., Fri., Sun., 8 p.m.; through April 20. (323) 463-7378, sfstheatre.com. (Pauline Adamek)

SHADES

William MacMillan, Kim Chase and Jed Sura

Ed KriegerWilliam MacMillan, Kim Chase and Jed Sura

Paula Caplan's drama starts out as a meaningful exploration of war's toll on the human body and spirit, but then ventures into predictable, watery melodrama. Jerry (Will MacMillan) is a tough but affable Jewish veteran of World War II who looks forward to retiring from his successful restaurant business. His son, Don (Jed Sura), is a proud Vietnam vet battling a lung infection and a nagging disillusionment with the government, while his sister, Val (Kim Chase), is a former anti-war protestor who cares for a paralyzed Vietnam vet (Toni Lewis) and struggles to understand the men in her life. These characters are fully likable, especially Jerry, but Caplan doesn't construct a consistently substantive and convincing link between them. It's a story told in frustrating starts and stops, now here, now there. Toward play's end, the action morphs into a protracted soap opera-style epic about Val's litany of contextually implausible and banal emotional hang-ups. Gary Lee Reed's stodgy direction doesn't help. Los Angeles Theatre Center, Theatre 4, 514. S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 12. (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org. (Lovell Estell III)

 GO  TAMALES DE PUERCO

Olin Tonatiuh and Cristal Gonzalez

Ed KriegerOlin Tonatiuh and Cristal Gonzalez

The rare (or the country's first?) trilingual play -- in English, Spanish and American Sign Language -- draws on playwright Mercedes Floresislas' personal history, which involves another trifecta, this one of woes: As a young woman, Floresislas fought off domestic abuse while scrounging a living as an illegal immigrant and trying to raise a deaf son. Both mother and son are fine now and appear in this surprisingly ebullient production at Casa 0101, Josefina López's (Real Women Have Curves) passion project in the heart of Boyle Heights. Director Edward Padilla recruited a number of deaf actors to sign, with two hearing boys alternating in the role of young Mauricio; English and Spanish supertitles are projected above the stage throughout. Cristal Gonzalez is a gem as the luminous Norma, while Miriam Peniche offers necessary comic relief as her raunchy street-vendor friend peddling roasted elote. The tense ending deliberately spins off into camp (suggesting what might have happened to the Dixie Chicks' Earl if he'd encountered the Demon Barber of Fleet Street), which detracts from the play's valuable themes. But it's a pleasure to watch these characters and the resilient communities they represent quite literally find their voices. Casa 0101, 2102 E. First St., Boyle Heights; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through April 28. (323) 263-7684, casa0101.org. (Jenny Lower)

SNAPSHOT Mitzi Sinnott was not yet born when her African-American father was drafted to fight in Vietnam. Like many soldiers, he returned a shattered man haunted by guilt and unable to emotionally connect with his wife and daughter. First performed in 2004, Sinnott's solo show juxtaposes family history and her experience as a person of mixed-race heritage with her attempts to locate and reconnect with her vanished dad. As a performer Sinnott displays a vigorous yet graceful physicality, and her messages about racism and the shameful maltreatment of vets are important ones. But while the narrative has moments to appreciate, it's often scattered, shifting from past to distant past to present in a haphazard way. Some of her performance seemed delivered on automatic pilot, and Sinnott's extensive use of mimicry to depict multiple characters and imagined dialogues (as between her father and his GI buddies) detracts from, rather than adds, to the story's impact. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, Thurs-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 22,. (323) 655-7679, www.greenwayarts.org. (Deborah Klugman)

ONGOING SHOWS IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE

American Buffalo: A new stage adaptation of the 1977 Broadway classic by David Mamet, in which out-of-luck and misguided misfits plot the theft of a rare coin collection. See Stage Feature:  Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12, $47-$77. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.

The Beaux' Stratagem: Thornton Wilder and Ken Ludwig both contributed to this adaptation of George Farquhar's early-18th-century comedy, which touches on the tribulations of the unhappily married and the moral shortcomings of the privileged classes. The story features two penniless rapscallions, Jack (Blake Ellis) and Tom (Freddy Douglas), who set out to seduce rich ladies in order to gain control of their fortunes. They soon discover a plot to burglarize the home of a wealthy dowager -- a crime they view as more dastardly than their own plan to defraud by deception. Amusing, with a few hilarious moments, the play on the whole doesn't rise to the level of the best and wittiest farce. (Ludwig's second act, written 65 years after Wilder abandoned the project, is funnier and has more shtick.) The ensemble performs respectably well; Ellis in the pivotal role handles the material adeptly but is missing the kind of unique persona that would make his performance memorable. Highest praises go to comic whirlwind Deborah Strang as a mad eccentric who fancies herself a healer but who kills or maims most of her patients. Angela Balogh Calin's costumes and Monica Lisa Sabedra's hair, wigs and makeup add frivolous fun. Julia Rodriguez Elliott directs. (Deborah Klugman). Thu., April 25, 8 p.m.; Fri., April 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 4, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 12, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., May 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 25, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 26, 2 p.m., $40-$60. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.


GO : Cavalia's Odysseo: This vast equestrian spectacle (the stage, the size of a hockey rink, encompasses 15,000 square feet) created by Normand Latourelle and directed by Wayne Fowkes, features 67 horses of 11 breeds as well as 45 international human performers, including riders, trainers, acrobats, aerialists, dancers, stilt walkers and musicians. The horses are beautiful, spirited and disciplined, jumping, dancing and performing elaborate feats of equine choreography. The trick riders display courage, reckless physical prowess and panache, and the scenery, projected on a huge screen, take us from the American Southwest to the steppes of Central Asia. The show consists of several episodes, featuring Cossacks, drummers, an equestrian carousel and an African village festival featuring drummers and acrobats. In a startling finale, the stage is flooded with 80,000 gallons of water so horses, riders and acrobats can splash away like mad. The production has a natural appeal for horse lovers, but you don't have to be an aficionado to appreciate the beauty of magnificent galloping horses, working in precision ensembles. The athletic human choreography is by Darren Charles and Alain Gauthier, and the equestrian direction and choreography is by Benjamin Aillaud. The show's compound is large, so walking shoes are recommended. (Neal Weaver). Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21, $34.50-$149.50. Under the Big Top/Downtown Burbank, 777 N. Front St., Burbank, 866-999-8111, www.cavalia.net

Circa: 46 Circus Acts in 45 Minutes: The Australian circus foursome delights audiences with acrobatics, flying, tumbling, and whip-cracking, all performed at lightning speed. Sun., April 21, 2 p.m., $20-$35; Pepperdine students $10. Smothers Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, 310-506-4522, arts.pepperdine.edu/tickets/.


The Circus Is Coming to Town: Interactive kids play, presented by Storybook Theatre. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through July 6. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.


GO : End of the Rainbow: Judy Garland's legendary triumphs and tragedies, dish and dirt have been chronicled so often and in so many forms, it would seem no nuance is left to be unearthed. Then there is Tracie Bennett, a performer whose colossal vocal and emotional power in End of the Rainbow pull us eagerly into a known quantity of expected bathos, then without warning sheds sentiment in favor of caustic reality, portraying Garland as less a victim than vicious miscreant. In the last year of her life, broke and desperate, the star leans on her new young fiancé,Mickey Deans (a perfectly tacky Erik Heger), to whom she is simultaneously delightfully brittle, cruel and irresistible as he arranges her last-chance gig -- a five-week concert run in London. At her side also is accompanist Anthony (smartly played by Michael Cumpsty), who represents her enormous gay following. The two men alternately join forces and skirmish, attempting to keep Garland clean, sober and stage-ready. Peter Quilter's lean and piercing script leaves little room for the maudlin, focusing instead on Garland's extremely sharp wit and lifelong addict's tricks to stay one step ahead of her keepers at all times. Masterful director Terry Johnson keeps the cast tightly connected to the material while allowing his star to soar in her myriad musical numbers, both in messy rehearsals with Anthony and during her bright moments in front of packed houses. Music director Jeffrey Saver and his band consummately create those moments through Chris Egan's classic orchestrations and the simple brilliance of Bennett's performance. (Tom Provenzano). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through April 21. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

GO : Eurydice: Playwright

Sarah Ruhl's melancholy and slightly surreal drama is a whimsical take

on the classic Greek myth of Orpheus, the divinely inspired musician who

defied nature and descended into Hades to retrieve his slain wife. This

exciting modern interpretation shifts the emphasis throughout the story

from Orpheus (an impassioned, romantic Graham Sibley) to Eurydice (a

beautiful naif, Jules Wilcox). Quickly establishing the besotted state

of the young betrothed lovers with adoring banter, Ruhl's dialogue is

full of wistful and playful exchanges while permitting the occasional

poetic flourish. Jeanine A. Ringer's dreamy blue underwater set evokes

first a beach and then a drippy and damp underworld, while a wandering

minstrel on violin (Endre Balogh) approximates the haunting melodies of

Orpheus' lyre that bewitch the denizens of Hades. Performances are

mostly good, with Ryan Vincent Anderson charmingly menacing as the

predatory and seductive "Nasty Interesting Man" and, later, Lord of the

Underworld. Unfortunately, the trio of women playing the stones

(famously moved by the exquisitely mournful music of Orpheus) comes

across as shrill and lacking in gravitas. Nevertheless, Geoff Elliott's

direction adroitly realizes his conceptual vision, right down to the

presence of water and rain, both real and projected (projections by

Brian Gale). (Pauline Adamek). Fri., April 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 27, 2

& 8 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 2 p.m.; Thu., May 9, 8 p.m.; Fri., May

10, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 18, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 19, 2 p.m. A Noise Within,

3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.

God's Man in Texas:

Written by David Rambo, this spiritual dramedy revolves around a Texas

mega-church and its search for a new pastor. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through May 18, $25; seniors $22; youth

(13-21) $15; children 12 and under $12. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W.

Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

GO : The Grapes of Wrath: There are no weak links in Michael Michetti's staging of The Grapes of Wrath.

It is a study of characters adrift, American refugees of the Great

Depression, starting with the decision of the Joad family to leave Dust

Bowl-cursed Oklahoma for California. On the horizon of the dusty plains

is the hope of opportunities afforded by the Golden State, where they

imagine they can pluck oranges from the trees and crush grapes with

their feet. Matt Gottlieb beautifully portrays an evangelical preacher

turned humanist, spending much of the action off by himself pondering

where on earth he's going and what on earth he's done. Mostly he's

struggling for a definition of what's holy, and it usually settles on

something closer to men and women than to God: "When you're working

together, harnessed to the whole shebang." The stage is populated by

wonderful actors, such as Deborah Strang as Ma Joad, indescribably

nuanced in her portrayal of a dignified woman whose strength is cleaved

by apprehension; by Lindsey Ginter as her simple husband, perpetually

eager to avoid conflict and to accommodate; and by Steve Coombs as their

short-tempered, ex-con son, who's quite the opposite of his dad. Amidst

the brutality of what would today be called climate change, the play is

a battle cry for all of us to treat each other with dignity. Its humane

view is almost theological, biblical, in its depiction of one

character's sacrifice for his people. (Steven Leigh Morris). Sat., April

20, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 21, 2 & 8 p.m.; Fri., May 3, 8

p.m.; Sat., May 11, 2 & 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill

Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.


Grease:

A new generation of musical theater talent brings this classic by Jim

Jacobs and Warren Casey to life. Directed by Barry Pearl, choreography

by Kelly Ward, musical direction by David O. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21, $30-$65. Fred

Kavli Theater, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks

Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 805-449-2787, www.civicartsplaza.com.


Habitat:

Written by Judith Thompson, this drama concerns a group home for

troubled adolescents which opens in a quiet community that has little

tolerance for its new residents. Starting April 20, Thursdays-Saturdays,

8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 12, $10-$40. Los Angeles

Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.


The Liar:

The protagonist of this French romantic comedy, written by Pierre

Corneille, travels to Paris seeking pleasure, but finds much more. Part

of L.A. Theatre Works' radio theater series. Fri., April 19, 8 p.m.;

Sat., April 20, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 21, 4 p.m., $15-$49. James

Bridges Theater, 1409 Melnitz Hall, Westwood, 310-206-8365.


Lonesome Traveler:

A journey into American folk music from the 1920's to the 1960's,

spanning the United States from the hills of Appalachia to the

nightclubs of San Francisco. Written and directed by Rubicon's Artistic

Director James O'Neil, with musical direction by Trevor Wheetman.

Starting April 25, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 27, 7 p.m.;

Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues

through May 19, $35-$59; students $30. Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E.

Main St., Ventura, 805-667-2900.

GO : One Night With Janis Joplin: The

seductive appeal of this musical hagiography by writer-director Randy

Johnson is no mystery. Nineteen-sixties rock acts have proved effective

boomer bait for fundraising PBS stations for years. That the trend

should have morphed into the tribute-concert stage musical merely speaks

to graying subscriber demographics and the perennial weakness of the

elderly for mythologizing their youth. To Johnson's credit, though his

Janis portrait is decidedly soft-focused, it is anchored by both a

compelling staging concept and the sheer talent of its stars.

Gravel-voiced Mary Bridget Davies belts her way through the iconic

Joplin catalogue, delivering convincing approximations of the singer's

vocal and stage mannerisms along with the world-weary, homespun

aphorisms Joplin habitually ad libbed over song breaks. Onto these

monologues, Johnson overlays both biographical tidbits and the show's

argument that the white middle-class Joplin deserves a place in the

blues canon alongside the black women singers that influenced her. The

stage incarnation of those legends -- Bessie Smith, Etta James, Nina

Simone and Aretha Franklin -- are provided by the versatile gospel

singer Sabrina Elayne Carten, and are one of the evening's most winning

elements. Another is the precision fidelity of music supervisor Ross

Seligman and his band. (Bill Raden). Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.;

Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m. Continues through

April 21, $69-$150. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena,

626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers:

A revival of the classic musical in which an 1850's pioneer in Oregon

tries to marry off her brothers. Book by Lawrence Kasha and David

Landay. Lyrics, music, and new songs by Johnny Mercer, Gene De Paul, Al

Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays,

Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through May

5, $20-$70. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada

Blvd., La Mirada, 562-944-9801, www.lamiradatheatre.com.

Shades:

Paula Caplan's drama starts out as a meaningful exploration of war's

toll on the human body and spirit, but then ventures into predictable,

watery melodrama. Jerry (Will MacMillan) is a tough but affable Jewish

veteran of World War II who looks forward to retiring from his

successful restaurant business. His son, Don (Jed Sura), is a proud

Vietnam vet battling a lung infection and a nagging disillusionment with

the government, while his sister, Val (Kim Chase), is a former anti-war

protestor who cares for a paralyzed Vietnam vet (Toni Lewis) and

struggles to understand the men in her life. These characters are fully

likable, especially Jerry, but Caplan doesn't construct a consistently

substantive and convincing link between them. It's a story told in

frustrating starts and stops, now here, now there. Toward play's end,

the action morphs into a protracted soap opera-style epic about Val's

litany of contextually implausible and banal emotional hang-ups. Gary

Lee Reed's stodgy direction doesn't help. (Lovell Estell III).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 5,

$30; members $15; students, seniors, veterans $20; Thursdays $10 -$15.

Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.


Smokefall:

Playwright Noah Haidle's hazy family apologue begins with a

postcard-perfect household in the American heartland -- an apparently

doting dad (Corey Brill); his dutiful and pregnant-with-twins wife

(Heidi Dippold); her sweetly Alzheimered father (Orson Bean); and their

devoted teen daughter, Beauty (Carmela Corbett). Then, via a sweepingly

omniscient narrator in a mini-fedora (Leo Marks), Haidle explodes that

view to reveal that Beauty actually drinks paint, eats dirt and is in

her third year of a vow of silence; that dad is about to forever abandon

his marriage and expanding brood; and that even the twin fetuses may be

having second thoughts about their imminent birth. Embroidered with

fanciful character conceits and mind-spinning narrative leaps, Haidle's

coloring-book fantasy is ultimately style-heavy -- call it whimsical

surrealism -- but substance-light. Director Anne Kauffman and her

talented design team contribute polish and visual wit but finally cannot

disguise the fact that this SCR/Goodman Theatre co-production plumbs

the full dramatic depths of a greeting-card bromide. (Bill Raden).

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8

p.m.; Sat., April 20, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., April 21, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., April

27, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 2:30 p.m. Continues through April 29.

South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.


REDCAT presents Guillermo Calderon: Villa + Discurso:

Two literary theater works from Chilean director Guillermo Calderón.

Thu., April 25, 8:30 p.m.; Fri., April 26, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., April 27,

8:30 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 7 p.m., $10-$20,

www.redcat.org/event/guillermo-calderon. REDCAT: Roy and Edna

Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.


ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD, AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS:

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs:

There are several moments late in Alex Lyras' fascinating performance

of Mike Daisey's controversial monologue when Lyras drops the mask of

his nameless, first-person investigative narrator and directly pleads

for the evening's truth claims as Alex Lyras, actor. The asides are as

tantalizing as they are telling. Because experiencing Lyras and director

Robert McCaskill's staging of Daisey's Michael Moore-esque mix of

polemics and sardonic reportage is to feel weirdly double-distanced from

the actuality of its subject -- the harshly impoverished working

conditions of Apple's Chinese iPhone and iPad plants. Despite Lyras'

persuasive delivery, the show never quite shakes the penumbra of

question marks raised by Daisey's own admitted fabrications of his

reporting trip to China (said material since excised). The force of each

incendiary revelation and Tim Arnold's accompanying photojournalistic

video projections somehow feels diminished unaccompanied by a

fact-checking footnote that goes beyond the piece's now bitterly ironic

emotive linchpin, Lyras as Daisey declaring, "Trust me! I was there."

(Bill Raden). Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 5, 800-838-3006,

agonyecstasy.brownpapertickets.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica

Blvd., Los Angeles, www.theatreasylum-la.com.

The Assistants:

Hunter Thompson described the TV business as a "cruel and shallow money

trench ... a plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good

men die like dogs." Unfortunately, the sting -- and truth -- of this

gloriously unflattering assessment isn't discernible in Joel Sinensky's

comedy about the sordid inner workings of television land. Reality TV

show host Ted Hartford's (Micah Cohen) privileged world unravels when a

contestant kills herself on the show. What's worse, ambitious assistant

Tori (Jessica Botello) and co-worker Chad (T. Michael Woolston) conspire

to use a tape of the incident to advance their careers (how is never

credibly explained). When the tape is leaked, a top-level executive

(Bree Pavey) and Ted's egotistical agent (John Perry Sisk) become

enmeshed in a network calamity. There is abundant material here for a

compelling story, but the squishy premise doesn't hold up. Incoherence

and gaps in the narrative are particularly jarring and troublesome in

the second act. Annabeth Bondor Stone directs. (Lovell Estell III).

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 5, $18. Loft

Ensemble, 929 E. Second St. No. 105, Los Angeles, 213-680-0392, www.loftensemble.com.


Behind the Lie:

A psychological police interrogation of a doctor suspected of killing

his wife, written by Nick Rongjun Yu. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 28, $20. Hudson Backstage

Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-4252, www.hudsontheatre.com.


Beirut:

"Beirut" is the spiteful nickname given to a section of the Lower East

Side of New York, where citizens who've been infected with an unnamed

disease are tattooed and quarantined. Written by Alan Bowne. Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 19, $20. Lounge

Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.

Do Lord Remember Me:

The words and songs of the last generation of Americans who were born

into slavery, recorded during President Roosevelt's 1930's Works

Progress Administration interviews. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays,

2 p.m. Continues through May 19, $25. Chromolume Theatre, 5429 W.

Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-205-1617, www.chromolume-theatre.com.

GO : Dreamgirls: Director

Marco Gomez's mostly straightforward but pleasingly intimate staging of

Tom Eyer and Henry Krieger's now classic Motown rock musical engagingly

captures the ferocious ambition, passion and inevitable disappointments

of the story of the rise of a girl band -- a tale whose incidents

eerily echo the narrative of The Supremes. Within the comparatively tiny

environs of a 99-seat theater, Gomez's production packs far more

glitter than you'd actually expect to get into the space: The gorgeous

Dreamgirls, resplendent in Michael Mullen's gorgeous 1970s diva gowns,

sashay angelically in front of shimmery tinsel curtains. The show boasts

many fierce performances, from Welton Thomas Pitchford's nicely creepy,

soulless agent Curtis, to Jennifer Colby Talton as the deliciously icy

Deena. As Effie, the sultry-voiced, but un-fan-friendly lead singer

ousted from her group, Constance Jewell Lopez possesses a haunting voice

and vulnerability, particularly during the production's nicely

evocative show-stopper, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Although

some performers' voices wear a little ragged by the end -- and Rae

Toledo's occasionally clunky choreography is sometimes a little awkward

during the larger production numbers -- the pleasures of the show

itself, under Chris Raymond's assured musical direction, are strong

enough to sustain interest. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 5, domatheatre.com. The Met

Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, 323-957-1152, www.themettheatre.com.


Femmes: A Tragedy: A contemporary lesbian adaptation of Clare Booth Luce's 1936 play The Women.

Written and directed by Gina Young. Fri., April 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., April

20, 8 p.m.; Fri., April 26, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 7 p.m., $20.

Lyric-Hyperion Theater & Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles,

323-906-8904, www.lyrichyperion.com.


The Good Thief:

Written by Conor McPherson. Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues

through April 29. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los

Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse:

It would take a cultural philosopher to adequately explain why zombies

have so profoundly resonated with audiences at this historical moment.

One does not, however, need to be a Gilles Deleuze to understand its

baroque potential for satire. Which is to say that anyone with even a

passing acquaintance with the genre rules laid down by George Romero

will find a lot to like in director Patrick Bristow's amiable,

Americanized version of this improv-derived British fringe import by Ben

Muir, Jess Napthine, David Ash and Lee Cooper. Bristow is zombiologist

Dr. Bobert Dougash. Jayne Entwistle, Mario Vernazza and Chris Sheets are

his seminar's panel of conspicuously underqualified experts, who take

very seriously the ludicrous prospect of surviving a fictional,

species-exterminating epidemic. Bristow expertly leads the crew through

some clever wordplay routines worthy of Abbott & Costello, padded

out with some genial barbs directed at audience targets of opportunity.

(Bill Raden). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 7 p.m. Continues through April

27, combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los

Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.

Huraclown:

Acclaimed Mexican clown Aziz Gual visits the U.S. and takes both

children and adults on an entertaining, poetic journey. Sun., April 21,

11 a.m. & 2 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 11 a.m. & 2 p.m., $10-$15.

24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles, 213-745-6516, www.24thstreet.org.


I Am Google:

Writer and computer expert Craig Ricci Shaynak stars in this comedy in

which he personifies the infamous search engine. Fridays, 10 p.m.;

Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through April 28, $15. Theatre Asylum, 6320

Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.


Little House on the Prairie-Oke!: Remember last year's Are You There God? It's Me, Karen Carpenter,

the musical spoof that used Judy Blume's '70s coming-of-age book set to

the Carpenters' music? Writer-director Dane Whitlock has done it again,

this time integrating the decade's classic TV series Little House on the Prairie with top karaoke tunes. Little House on the Prairie-Oke! takes

particular inspiration from the episode in which heroine Laura Ingalls

falls in love with her future husband, Almanzo Wilder -- but not before

arch-nemesis Nellie Oleson and her scheming mom try to get their hooks

into him first. Almanzo is played by British musical theater actor (and

former American Idol contestant) Tom Lowe, and Laura is played by

Libby Baker. But who cares about Half-Pint? It's all about the town

meanie, played by Drew Droege -- better known to anyone who's wasted

precious work hours on YouTube as the star of those "I'm Chloe Sevigny"

videos. Droege will be bringing Nellie's petticoat and blond sausage

curls to life, while the rest of the fine folk of Walnut Grove sing and

dance to "Call Me Maybe," "Love Shack," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and

"Don't Stop Believin'." It's always more fun to root for the bad girl.

(Siran Babayan). Fridays, Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through April 20,

$25 door; $20 advance. Cavern Club Theater, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Los

Angeles, 323-969-2530, www.cavernclubtheater.com.


The Lord's Lover:

For this show, writer-director-composer Juliet Annerino apparently was

inspired by an ancient Persian myth that depicts Satan as God's rejected

lover. But somewhere along the way, the concept got lost, and it

emerges only in the title and the program notes. What we're left with is

a moderately appealing rock concert by The Torch Ensemble (for which

Ms. Annerino is lead singer) interspersed with slight, haphazardly

directed sketches on vaguely sexual themes. God (Jim Bolt) appears as a

rather hyper emcee in a top hat ornamented with a smiley face. There's a

fan dance by Tori Amoscata, an interesting slideshow and a playlet

about an ill-matched threesome, featuring a straight woman attracted to a

gay man and a lesbian with the letch for the straight woman. But

there's little to back up the subtitle's claim to either spirituality or

a sexpose. (Neal Weaver). Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through April

25, $20. Los Globos, 3040 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-666-6669.


Mad Forest:

When Eastern European Communism collapsed, only Romania spilled a lot

of blood -- from soldiers firing on citizens to the Christmas Day

execution of its husband-and-wife dictators, Nicolae and Elena

Ceausescu. When familiar faces quickly regained power, Romanians

wondered if the events of late 1989 should have been labeled a

revolution at all. Mad Forest delves directly into that abyss,

spinning history into parable via playwright Caryl Churchill's canny

postmodern aesthetic. Part 1 sets the stage with tableaux of Romanian

life under the secret police. Part 2 becomes an oral history of the

violence, and Part 3 dramatizes the unraveling of hope, goodwill -- and,

to some extent, sanity -- in the messy aftermath. Mad Forest,

with its heavily expository nature, may not have stood the test of time

as well as some of Churchill's other works, but its engagement with the

impotent rage of those whom history treats as pawns remains on point.

Director Marya Mazor stylishly wrangles her large cast and multimedia

staging. (Mindy Farabee). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.

Continues through May 4. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los

Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.


GO : The Miracle Worker: There's

always a danger of toppling into sentimentality when retelling a story

as uplifting and inspirational as the saga of blind, deaf and dumb Helen

Keller and her tough, determined teacher, Annie Sullivan. Playwright

William Gibson avoids that pitfall by emphasizing the humor in the

situation, the stubborn cantankerousness of Sullivan (Tara Battani) and

the animal desperation of the child Helen (Danielle Soibelman). These

actors bring visceral intensity to the battle of wits and will that

erupts when Sullivan attempts to civilize the wild child, culminating in

the ferocious battle over the breakfast table. Silverware flies and

crockery smashes as Sullivan fights to reach the isolated girl with

nothing more than physical restraint and the sense of touch. Sullivan's

struggle is even harder because she also must fend off interference from

an over-indulgent mother (Catherine Gray), a willful, blustering father

and a cynical, doubting brother (Tony Christopher). There's occasional

awkwardness in the production, due to the difficulty of shoehorning a

large, multiscene production onto a small arena stage, but director Thom

Babbes elicits fine performances from the five principals. Designer

Mark Svastics provides the handsome, flexible sets. (Neal Weaver).

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., April 20, 2:30

p.m.; Sat., May 18, 2:30 p.m. Continues through May 19, $30; seniors

$25; students $20. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles,

323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.


Neverwhere:

After assisting a distraught and injured woman named Door (Paula

Rhodes), milquetoast office worker Richard (Bryan Bellomo) embarks on a

journey that draws him into a fantastical, subterranean world beneath

London. Neil Gaiman's Wizard of Oz-esque story promises a magical

subculture of strange characters, terrifying beasts and exciting twists

and turns, but director Scott Leggett's disappointing production

delivers a meandering fairy tale and a series of quests that lack

tension or genuine threat. The danger set up within each

exposition-laden scene is resolved too quickly, before we amble on to

the next mini-quest. Hot on Door's trail are assassins Mr. Croup (Ezra

Buzzington) and Mr. Vandermar (Bryan Krasner) who, despite their

dastardly deeds, are played too comedically to pose genuine menace.

Several cast members are guilty of overacting, while most seem to be

concentrating more on reproducing British accents than on clarity of

expression. Michael James Schneider's cunning, stitched-together set

feels underutilized. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 11, $25. Sacred Fools Theater, 660

N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.


No Exit:

Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist play focuses on three sisters locked

in a room together for eternity, the circumstance which bore his famous

quote, "Hell is other people." Directed by Don Boughton for the Nether

World Theatre Group. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues

through April 29, $20; students/seniors $15. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa

Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.


On the Spectrum:

Young Mac (Dan Shaked) is in the process of applying to law school when

his mother (Jeannie Hacket) informs him they are about to lose the

family home. What for anyone would qualify as a stressful event becomes

for Mac both a deeply unsettling confrontation with the idea of change

and an opportunity to prove that all those years of intense therapy for

his high-functioning Asperger's Syndrome have given him what it takes to

cut it in a neurotypical world. Across town, Iris (a wondrous Virginia

Newcomb) never leaves her Queens apartment, spending her days fashioning

an elaborate website she's dubbed The Other World. Locked into the more

extreme end of the autism scale, she has no interest in meeting society

on its own terms. When she hires Mac to design her graphics, the two

must negotiate not only the strange territory of human attraction, but

also the larger question of whether falling "on the spectrum" is an

identity or a disability. Ultimately, the play -- by and large witty and

poignant -- falls prey to a reductively feel-good ending. What's

flawless is the luminous collaboration between scenic designer John

Iacovelli and video designer Jeff Teeter, with agile strokes of light

and sound by R. Christopher Stokes and Peter Bayne, respectively. (Mindy

Farabee). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues

through April 28. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles,

323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.


Orange Flower Water:

In Craig Wright's 80-minute domestic drama, two Midwestern married

couples face the dissolution of their marriages. David and Cathy Calhoun

(Jeff Denton and Leslie Liberman) and Brad and Beth Youngquist (Mick

Thyer and Sarah Ann Schultz) have been friends for a few years before

David comes to the realization that he and Beth have been married to the

wrong people and instigates an adulterous affair. Stephanie Feury

demonstrates a sure directorial hand, opening the play with a tableau vivant

depicting all four characters frozen in each corner of the single set

-- a multipurpose bedroom -- implying a boxing-ring battleground for the

acrimonious fight that is to come. Soon thereafter, Feury stages a

scene of impatient lust literally behind the back of the cuckolded wife,

Cathy, as she departs for a work trip. Wright's dull dialogue

ploddingly charts the couples' histrionics but is somewhat redeemed by

an ineffably beautiful concluding monologue. (Pauline Adamek).

Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 20.

Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre And Acting Conservatory, 5636 Melrose

Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-7378, www.sfstheatre.com.


Proof:

This Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by David Auburn explores madness and

familial relationships through troubled heroine Catherine, her estranged

relatives, and her deceased father. Starting April 20, Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fri., May 3, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 9, 8 p.m.; Fri.,

May 10, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12, $25; students and seniors $10.

Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.


Red Bastard:

Audiences should be ready for anything at Eric Davis' interactive show,

in which Red Bastard engages his "students" in a master class of raw

conversation, provocations, traps, rewards, and catch 22's. Mon., April

22, 8 p.m.; Mon., April 29, 8 p.m.; Mon., May 13, 8 p.m., $20. Sacred

Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.


Round Rock:

Sam Bass is rarely mentioned in the pantheon of infamous outlaws of the

Old West, but he and his gang pulled off the largest train robbery in

U.S. history, and they gave law enforcement fits in the late 1800s.

Drawing on historical material, writer-director Aaron Kozak dramatizes

the life and times of the Sam Bass Gang. Bass (Brett Colbeth) is first

seen at a farm hideout with cohorts Seaborn Barnes (Gregory Crafts) and

Frank "Blockey" Johnson (Drew Farmer), divvying up the proceeds from a

robbery. The action then caroms among various locales in Texas as the

gang -- between stints of drinking, gambling and whoring -- elude the

law and confront the ugly realities of their lawlessness. Kozak largely

succeeds in sketching a convincing picture of these desperadoes. The

problem is in the script's structure: There are too many scenes that

don't propel the narrative or bolster the dramatic arc, and the second

act is terribly overwritten. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m. Continues through April 27. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los

Angeles, 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.com.


Shut Up and Dance!:

A one-woman show written by and starring comedian/actress/dancer Stella

Valente, in which she weaves together her love of dance, upbringing in

Queens, and adventures in Argentina. Starting April 25, Thursdays, 8

p.m. Continues through May 30. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner

St., Los Angeles, 323-851-2603, www.workingstage.com.

GO

:  Tomorrow: Skylight Theatre Company, Rogue Machine, and York Theatre Royal present Donald Freed's new play. See Stage Feature: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21, 702-582-8587, ktcla.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles.


NYC's Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Inaugural LA Production:

A coming-of-age story, written and directed by Daniel Talbot, about a

high school senior who moves to Iowa after losing his father, where he

develops a close relationship with another boy at school.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m. Continues through

May 5, $34; $15 seniors; $10 students, www.rattlestick.org/rattlestick-LA. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles.


Snapshot:

A one-woman play written and performed by Mitzi Sinnott, who shares her

personal journey to find her father, a veteran haunted by his

experience in Vietnam. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.

Continues through April 22, $20. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax

Ave., Los Angeles, 323-655-7679, www.greenwayarts.org.


Something to Crow About:

The Bob Baker Marionettes' musical "Day on the Farm." Saturdays,

Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette

Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.


GO : Tamales de Puerco (Pork Tamales): The

rare (or the country's first?) trilingual play -- in English, Spanish

and American Sign Language -- draws on playwright Mercedes Floresislas'

personal history, which involves another trifecta, this one of woes: As a

young woman, Floresislas fought off domestic abuse while scrounging a

living as an illegal immigrant and trying to raise a deaf son. Both

mother and son are fine now and appear in this surprisingly ebullient

production at Casa 0101, Josefina Lopez's (Real Women Have Curves)

passion project in the heart of Boyle Heights. Director Edward Padilla

recruited a number of deaf actors to sign, with two hearing boys

alternating in the role of young Mauricio; English and Spanish

supertitles are projected above the stage throughout. Cristal Gonzalez

is a gem as the luminous Norma, while Miriam Peniche offers necessary

comic relief as her raunchy street-vendor friend peddling roasted elote.

The tense ending deliberately spins off into camp (suggesting what

might have happened to the Dixie Chicks' Earl if he'd encountered the

Demon Barber of Fleet Street), which detracts from the play's valuable

themes. But it's a pleasure to watch these characters and the resilient

communities they represent quite literally find their voices. (Jenny

Lower). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through

April 28, $25 opening night; $20 all other nights; $17 seniors; $15

students and Boyle Heights residents. Casa 0101, 2102 E. 1st St., Los

Angeles, 323-263-7684, www.casa0101.org.


Terminator Too Judgment Play: Interactive sci-fi spoof, from the folks who brought you Point Break Live!.

Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through April 27,

brownpapertickets.com/event/306759. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd.,

Los Angeles, 323-466-6111, www.thedragonfly.com.


GO : Trainspotting: Director

Roger Mathey and Seat of the Pants Productions return with a solid

revival of their 2002 production about four lower-class Edinburgh youths

prematurely entombed in a hellish world of sex, heroin addiction and

violence. The story is based on the 1993 novel by Irvine Welsh (the

source material for Danny Boyle's 1996 film) and adapted for the stage

by Harry Gibson. Mathey sacrifices nothing in the way of raw,

nausea-inducing moments in this outing (shit really does fly, and there

is full nudity), and this time he efficiently uses a larger cast, with

some actors taking on multiple roles. Justin Zachary returns as

narrator-protagonist Mark Renton, who in spite of numerous attempts at

rehab can't kick the habit. Also returning are David Agranov as Mark's

close friend Tommy, who eventually succumbs to heroin's lethal allure;

Matt Tully as Begbie; and Jonathan Roumie as Sick Boy. In spite of the

dismal subject matter, Mathey unearths some necessary humor, a lot of it

coming from Mark's often ironic, understated commentary. Still, at

times the Scottish accents make it near impossible to understand the

dialogue (Tully often sounds like he's chewing a mouthful of oatmeal).

Jason Rupert's scenic design consisting of a platform that doubles as a

home interior, bracketed by two graffiti-pocked walls, is suitably

raunchy. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7

p.m. Continues through June 2, 323-960-7785, plays411.com/trainspotting.

Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.


GO : Walking the Tightrope: Given

that so many examples of children's theater are simply appalling -- the

equivalent of Muffin the Puppet singing "Sharing Is Caring and Obey

your Parents" or some such rubbish -- what a pleasure it is to see a

work, aimed at a young audience, that possesses both intellectual heft

and genuinely involving emotion. Playwright Mike Kenny's drama Walking the Tightrope

is about grief, but the handling of the subject is deft and nuanced,

while also being told from a child's point of view. The play takes place

in a British seaside town, circa 1950s, as little girl Esme (a

beautifully gamine but not obnoxious Paige Lindsay White) arrives for

her annual visit to her grandparents. She discovers that her grandmother

is nowhere to be found and her sad grandfather (Mark Bramhall) fibs

that she has gone to join the circus, a lie that Esme quickly realizes

is meant to keep the old man from accepting the truth himself about his

wife's passing. Richly evocative, director Debbie Devine's heartfelt

production is touching and truthful without descending into mawkish

sentimentality. Bramhall's crusty, grieving granddad and White's

thoughtfully perky Esme are great together. Tony Duran also delivers a

standout turn, as the ghostly presence of the grandmother's spirit.

(Paul Birchall). Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through

May 18. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles,

213-745-6516, www.24thstreet.org.


Wolves:

For a few minutes Steve Yockey's horror spoof -- pretentiously billed

as a psychological drama -- shows literary promise. A narrator

(Katherine Skelton) with an air of foreboding tells us about Ben (Nathan

Mohebbi), a nebbishy guy from a small town who salves his loneliness

with casual lovers, then freaks when they don't want to commit. When his

ex, Jack (Matt Magnusson), now a platonic roommate, brings home a

handsome "wolf" (Andrew Crabtree), Ben loses it big-time and the blood

flows. Hinting at deep truths and dark revelations, the piece then

segues into banal dialogue among three guys in a sex triangle. Anyone

who's ever been caught up in a dating scene, gay or straight, could

improvise this drivel. None of the performers rises above the material,

including Skelton, whose storyteller assumes a grating simper. Designer

Tim Swiss' lighting displays accomplished talent and Cricket S. Myers'

sound is effectual. Michael Matthews directs. (Deborah Klugman).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 5.

Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles,

323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.


ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS:


American Misfit:

A 1950s sock hop is the unlikely setting for playwright Dan Dietz's

formally daring but sometimes bewildering meditation on this country's

foundational heart of darkness. Based on the grisly, real-life

predations of the Harpe brothers (Daniel MK Cohen, AJ Meijer), who

terrorized Tennessee's backwoods in the 1790s, this fanciful ode to both

Tocqueville and Sun Records employs a rockabilly-fueled original score

(by Dietz and Phillip Owen), irreverent impersonations of famous

founding fathers (by Larry Cedar and P.J. Ochlan) and a somewhat

politicized reading of the Harpes to argue that, for better or worse,

civilization -- and America in particular -- finds its richest

expression in its most contrary and disruptive discontents. And if

Dietz's nomadic reasoning holds more water as political theory than as

engaging stage narrative, the combination of Michael Michetti's fertile

direction, Lee Martino's thrilling swing choreography, Ann

Closs-Farley's vividly imagined costumes and Omar D. Brancato's

four-piece band (fronted by a smoldering Banks Boutté) goes a long way

toward shoring up the leaks. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., May 8, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12, $34.

Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626-683-6883, www.bostoncourt.com.

Billy & Ray: Widely considered to be one of the most influential film noirs, 1944's Double Indemnity

is not only a masterpiece of the genre but also an artful example of

how filmmakers were inspired by the Hays Code, the censorship

restrictions governing Hollywood from 1930 to 1968. Drawing on the

contentious partnership that produced the film -- director/co-writer

Billy Wilder famously clashed with his first-time screenwriter, Raymond

Chandler, who went on to feud equally furiously with Alfred Hitchcock --

playwright Mike Bencivenga's light comedy is a love letter not only to

the movie itself but to classic Hollywood in general and creative

ingenuity in particular. Handsomely staged and snappily paced by

director Garry Marshall, the production picks up in the second act when

Wilder (Kevin Blake), presented as a lovable scamp, and Chandler (Shaun

O'Hagan), unfortunately drawn as pretty much a milquetoast, get some of

their best opportunities to banter. (Mindy Farabee).

Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through April

28, Opening night $52-$57; Weds and Thurs $34.50-$37; Fri, Sat, Sun

$39.50-$42; students $27. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside, Burbank,

818-955-8101, www.falcontheatre.com.


Company:

Stephen Sondheim composed the lyrics and score to his innovative

"concept musical" in 1970, with book by George Furth. For a comedy

musical about love, it proves resolutely unromantic and honest. And,

surprisingly, its acerbic wit and laserlike scrutiny of marriage, dating

and relationships does not feel at all dated. Director Albert Marr's

incorporation of cellphones and Facebook effortlessly adds a

contemporary feel. The loose story centers on Robert (a charismatic Ben

Rovner), a handsome, single, mid-30s New Yorker surrounded by

well-meaning but smug married friends. Their cheerful efforts to push

him toward joining their club are undermined by their conjugal lives,

which are fundamentally flawed or dysfunctional. The ensemble's vocal

skills are good but not stellar, though Julie Black sings brilliantly as

funky girlfriend Marta. Also impressive is musical director William A.

Reilly's furious piano and synth live accompaniment. Despite some

appealing performances, this company's average Company barely

matches Sondheim's marvelous material. (Pauline Adamek).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 28,

crowncitytheatre.com. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North

Hollywood, 818-605-5685, www.crowncitytheatre.com.


Dirty Little Demon:

Joseph Le Compte's sex thriller. Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through

May 3. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.


GO 

Fragments of Oscar Wilde: Vanessa Cate's adaptations of La Sainte Courtisane, A Florentine Tragedy, The Nightingale and the Rose, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Salome.

Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through May 18. Zombie Joe's Underground

Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.


Golden Girls Live: A Drag Parody:

Pay tribute to your favorite sitcom senior citizens with this hilarious

drag show. Priority seating includes a slice of cheesecake. Thursdays,

Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 29, $22.50-$34.

Oil Can Harry's, 11502 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-760-9749, www.oilcanharrysla.com.


Grimm Nights Vol.1: Hollywood:

Grimm's classic fairy tales set against the mean streets of modern-day

Hollywood. Written by Vanessa Cate, Matt DeNoto, Samantha Levenshus,

Sebastian Muñoz, and Adam Neubauer. Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through

May 5, $15. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd.,

North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.


The Importance of Being Earnest:

While the latest offering from the Banshees is surely earnest, director

Sean Branney and the ensemble don't quite capture the delicate rhythms

of Oscar Wilde's language nor the precise comic timing necessary to

properly realize Earnest. The conflict between Jack (Cameron J.

Oro) and Algernon (Kevin Stidham) initially misses the mark, as Oro is

too congenial to delineate the contrast between the bachelors, leading

Stidham to overdo the cheek a bit. Their dynamic soon recovers but it

never finds Jack's stringent propriety, which provides the necessary

foil to Algernon's antics. Andrew Leman's Lady Bracknell, while quite

different from Dame Edith Evans' classic portrayal, comes into her own

and continues the tradition of male casting for the role. Gwendolen

(Sarah van der Pol) and Cecily (Erin Barnes) are pleasant and perky, but

their claws aren't razor sharp in their classic tête-à-tête over tea,

though Barnes' energy gives Cecily a youthful exuberance. There is

brilliance in Branney's "set-change ballet" between Acts II and III,

showcasing Arthur MacBride's artfully crafted set, but it's not enough

to elevate a merely competent take on the classic. (Mayank Keshaviah).

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 5. The

Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, 818-846-5323, www.theatrebanshee.org.


The Innocence of Father Brown:

Drawing from G.K. Chesterton's 51 short stories about a Catholic priest

who solves murder mysteries in early 20th-century London, Patrick

Rieger has created a two-hour evening of theater that feels like two

related one-act plays. Simply staged by co-directors Allison Darby

Gorjian and Betsy Roth, the lightly comedic crime drama unfolds at an

unhurried pace; this is old-fashioned storytelling from a gentler, more

leisurely era. Unfortunately the presentation is frequently staid, with

the action drifting to a halt as Father Brown engages in philosophical

and theological debates, only occasionally enlivened by his droll wit

and high-flown language. Several characters clearly echo those in

Conan-Doyle's tales of Sherlock Holmes, in particular the arch-criminal

Flambeau (Brandon Parrish), grumpy, exasperated detective Valentin (Adam

Daniel Eliott) and smooth and cryptic sleuth Father Brown (Blake

Walker), although unlike the more famous fictional detective, the

clergyman's process tends to be introspective and intuitive rather than

deductive. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2

p.m.; Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through April 28, $25;

students/seniors $20. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South

Pasadena, 626-441-5977, www.fremontcentretheatre.com.


Love, Sex, Violence, Etc.:

A collection of five short works from playwright Helena Weltman, which

promises to take its audience on a tour of human emotions emerging from

the deepest tragedy to the funniest comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 5, $20; students and seniors $18.

Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.


Low Tech:

In this comedy, a spokesmodel disconnects from her technology-driven

corporate sponsors, convincing her bosses that she is crazy. Written by

Jeff Folschinsky. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues

through May 19, $18. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd.,

Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.


Mrs. Warren's Profession:

George Bernard Shaw made his case for women's lib in this 1894 play,

involving the contentious struggle between an assertive young feminist

and her brothel-managing mom. Educated at Cambridge, Vivie (Rebecca

Mozo) exemplifies a new breed of woman who loves her work and is

lukewarm to the attentions of various men. Raised at boarding schools

and by governesses, she knows little about the background of her mother

(Anne Gee Byrd), who eluded poverty by becoming a successful madam.

Shaw's insight and ironic wit have survived the decades, but the

production is too static, especially in Act I. Directed by Robin Larsen,

the performers often struggle to sound authentically British, and their

portrayals, while sometimes on target, are uneven. Byrd, an exception,

is altogether compelling as a sly woman of the world wounded to the core

by her daughter's rebuff. Neither Francois-Pierre Couture's humdrum set

nor Jeremy Pivnick's underused lighting add dimension to the story.

(Deborah Klugman). Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21. The Antaeus Company

and Antaeus Academy, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.antaeus.org.


Nuttin' but Hutton:

Betty Hutton was known in her heyday as the Blonde Bombshell. After a

brief Broadway career, and a stint as a band singer, she made her name

in Hollywood in screwball comedies like The Miracle at Morgan's Creek

and became famous for her manic, zany, over-the-top performances of

comic novelty songs such as "I'm Just a Square in the Social Circle,"

"Murder, He Says" and "His Rocking Horse Ran Away." She went on to

triumph in the film version of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun and Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth,

only to abandon her Hollywood career and wind up as a dishwasher in a

Catholic convent. Writer-performer Diane Vincent clearly idolizes Hutton

and set out to celebrate her. But instead of relying on Hutton's own

potent story, Vincent has chosen to tell the hackneyed tale of a singer

trying to mount a show about Hutton, featuring a large array of Hutton's

signature numbers, with snippets of information of her life and career

shoehorned in. Vincent is an able performer, and her show is a labor of

love, but Hutton would have been better served by a more straightforward

treatment of her life and talent. (Neal Weaver). Sundays, 3 p.m.;

Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through

April 28, 800-595-4849, nuttinbuthutton.com. NoHo Arts Center, 11136

Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, www.thenohoartscenter.com.


The Owl and the Pussycat:

In this comedy, two polar opposites, would-be writer Felix and would-be

actress Doris bring mischief and spark into each others lives. Written

by Bill Manhoff. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through

May 12, $20. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood,

818-205-1680.

Sculptress of Angel X:

Zombie Joe's "epic drama about a passionate young woman's erotic

journey to redemption through her art." Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues

through May 10. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd.,

North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

GO : Smoke and Mirrors: If

you've forgotten the childlike joy and sublime wonderment of seeing

magic performed, Albie Selznick's theatrical show is an enchanting

reminder. The accomplished actor-magician puts on a bewildering tour de

force that has more "how did he do that" flashes than can be counted.

The show also has a personal element, as Selznick recounts his long path

to becoming a master magician, starting when he lost his father at the

age of 9 and used magic to escape reality, and then as a means of

challenging and overcoming his fears. He knows how to work the crowd,

and uses members of the audience in a number of his routines. Toward

show's end, he swallows some razors (kids, don't try this), then

regurgitates them on a long string, and wows with a demonstration of

fire eating and juggling some wicked-looking knives. Other amazing

moments are the eerie conjuring of doves out of nowhere and a

mind-blowing exhibition of midair suspension. Like all good magicians,

Selznick has highly capable assistants -- Brandy, Kyle, Tina and Daniel

-- who dazzle with their own magic in a stylish preshow. Paul Millet

directs. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2

p.m. Continues through May 26, 800-595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com.

Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.lankershimartscenter.com.


Someone Who'll Watch Over Me:

A story inspired by true events, about the horrors of captivity and

unbreakable friendships. Three men are held captive in a 1980's Lebanese

prison and are forced to cope with daily challenges, fear and

uncertainty. Written by Frank McGuinness. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 2, $22. Lonny Chapman Group

Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-700-4878, www.thegrouprep.com.


True West:

This 1980 drama puts a spin on sibling rivalry when two adult brothers

experience the heavy burden of envy. Written by Sam Shepard. Directed by

Randall Gray. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 25, $30;

seniors and military personnel $27. Stages of Gray, 299 N. Altadena

Drive, Pasadena, www.stagesofgray.com.


Urban Death:

Zombie Joe's Underground's horror stories. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues

through April 27. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim

Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.


Zero Dark Forty...ish:

A new production by the comedy and improv group Los Chupacabras (Jim

Eshom, John Falchi, Matthew Hoffman, William Norrett). Tue., April 23,

8:30 p.m., $15. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd.,

North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee:

A hit musical comedy revival about the intelligence of young people.

Book by Rachel Sheinkin. Music and lyrics by William Finn. Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 12, $25;

students and seniors $23. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941

Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades, 310-454-1970, www.theatrepalisades.org.


Annapurna:

Husband and wife actors Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman star in this

drama by Sharr White, about two old lovers who reunite for the first

time in twenty years. Starting April 20, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April

21, 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed.,

May 8, 8 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 22, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 29, 8

p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues

through June 9, $25-$30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los

Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.


Assisted Living:

A funny, touching look at interpersonal relationships, written and

performed by husband and wife team Paul Dooley and Winnie Holzman.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 13,

$45 opening night; $25 Fridays; $30 Saturdays and Sundays. Odyssey

Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.


Blood Knot:

Two brothers in South Africa, one black and one who passes for white,

try to move out of the ramshackle village in which they reside. Written

by Athol Fugard. Directed by Oscar and Golden Globe Award winner Louis

Gossett Jr. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues

through May 19, $25. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast, Malibu,

310-589-1998, www.malibustagecompany.org.


Hammer Down Reprise:

Written and directed by Adam Macy. Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through

April 27. The Improv Space, 954 Gayley Ave., Westwood,

www.theimprovspace.com.


GO : Heart of Darkness: In his haunting, solo adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness,

playwright-actor Brian T. Finney navigates his craft directly through

the work's core themes of madness, imperialistic exploitation and, well,

the horror. Finney reimagines the story as monologue, artfully

orchestrated by director Keythe Farley's psychologically nuanced and

ferociously energetic staging. Avoiding the pitfalls of intrusive, radio

drama-like narration, Finney and Farley offer a far more immersive

experience -- one that is fraught with eerie melancholy. Finney,

caparisoned in traditional 19th-century explorer's garb, at first plays

the hero as a traditionally plummy, genially affable British sailor. But

as his character's voyage up the dark river of the Congo proceeds, and

he finds himself desperately interacting with the dangerously insane

station chief Kurtz, the performer takes on the lunacy of his

characters, creating a harrowing atmosphere with a stylized quality that

almost echoes Kabuki theater. Set, sound effects and multimedia visuals

are almost characters in their own right: Sibyl Wickersheimer's sole

set backdrop, a series of three sails that fold in and out of each

other, turning into walls at one moment and screens for contextual

slides in others, is brilliantly effective. (Paul Birchall).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 18, $35;

students/seniors $30. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070

Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-4264, www.theactorsgang.com.


One White Crow:

An investigative journalist is assigned to profile a renowned

television personality and psychic medium intent on proving her powers.

Written by Dale Griffiths and directed by Deborah LaVine. Starting April

20, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May

26. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica,

310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
 

GO : The Rainmaker:

A con-man/drifter walks into a small town, usually in the Midwest, and

seduces a vulnerable local female. He not only seduces her, he awakens

her to her true self and potential, which the opinions of others -- her

family and society -- have been suffocating. Oh, brother. Get the broom

and sweep off the cobwebs. In lesser hands than director Jack Heller's,

watching The Rainmaker would be like trudging through a slightly

dank, primeval marsh without rubber boots -- the kind of experience

where you might say, "Well, isn't this historic and curious. Where can I

dry my socks?" The production is saved in part by its linchpin, Tanna

Frederick's droll, rat-smart Lizzie. With subtlety and composure that

often belies the text, she knows who she is and what she wants. Though

the play is over-written, Frederick's performance lies so entrenched

beneath the lines, it's as though she absorbs the play's excesses so

that they don't even show. Her terrific performance is not enough to

turn the play into a classic, but it does provide enough of an emotional

pull to reveal the reasons why it keeps getting staged. (Steven Leigh

Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues

through May 19. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa

Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.


Rank:

In Irish playwright Robert Massey's dramedy, the collection of low-life

characters on offer proves that one needn't have an American passport

to be a scoundrel and a reprobate -- the same sort of crooked sleazes

may be found even on the Emerald Isle. Carl (Kevin Kearns), a sad-sack

Dublin taxi driver with a gambling addiction, is in debt to local thug

boss Jackie (Ron Bottitta), who has given Carl half a day to come up

with the money he owes. When Carl's father-in-law, George (David

Schaal), who happens to be Jackie's former underworld ally, teams with

Carl to perform a heist, double crosses ensue -- albeit of the most

predictable type. Like many plays from Ireland, Massey's piece possesses

a distinctive verbal style -- the dialogue is meandering, sometimes

lyrical, and full of wit. However, director Wilson Milam's drab

production suffers from sluggish pacing, which exacerbates awareness of

the narrative's often glaring logical flaws. Performances possess an

intriguing intensity suggesting danger, but it's left to Bottitta's

leering, blustering, Jack Nicholson-like mob boss to carry the show with

his multidimensional personality. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., April 25, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 2, 8 p.m.;

Wed., May 8, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S.

Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.



GO:  Remembrance:

There's a memorably tender moment, in this production of Graham Reid's

1984 Irish play, when two widowed seniors, Bert (Mik Scriba), a

Protestant, and Theresa (Diana Angelina), a Catholic, kiss for the first

time. The two always meet in a cemetery, where they regularly tend the

graves of their respective sons, both foully murdered amid "the

Troubles" in Northern Ireland. Decent, likable people, these older folk

contrast favorably with their angry, bigoted children who, ungenerous

and unforgiving, oppose their parents' romance. Each character in this

well-made albeit over-extended play has an intriguing story: Bert's

alcoholic son, Victor (Johnny O'Callaghan), is jealous of his dead

brother and distraught over a pending divorce. Theresa's daughter, Joan

(Alice Cutler), suffers with guilt over her brother's death while her

belligerent sister, Deirdre (Christine Joëlle), twists her sexual

frustration -- her husband is a jailed- for-life militant -- into anger

and aggression. Victor's compassionate ex-wife (Elizabeth Lande) fights

to stay distant from a man she still cares for. Director Tim Byron

Owen's deft hand is clearly visible in these skilled portraits. Michele

Young's costumes create reassuring authenticity; sound designer Bill

Froggatt's twittering birds add a touch of whimsy, as musically fragile

as the lovers' fleeting hopes. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21, $26. Theatre 40 at

the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.

The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife:

Del Shores' award-winning dramatic comedy about the life of Willadean,

an abused "trailer trash" housewife. Contains adult material. Discretion

is advised. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues

through April 28, $10-$13. Santa Monica College, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa

Monica, 310-434-4000, www.smc.edu.



Years To The Day:

A dark comedy written by Allen Barton about two 40-something men who

have been friends for decades, and who finally get together for coffee

after only staying in touch via social media. Fridays, Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 12, $25-$35. Beverly Hills

Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-855-1556, www.bhplayhouse.com.

Yesterday's Twelve actors and musicians star in this comedy about Candy, the owner

of a failing Hollywood jazz club, who tries to keep her business afloat.

Live music accompanies this original piece, created and performed by

Theatre by the Blind. Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 5. $20;

pay what you can on April 21 only. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third

Street Promenade, Santa Monica, 310-656-8070