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Theater to See in L.A. This Week, From Bob Baker's Marionettes to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Doing Hamlet

The Mouse King
The Mouse King
Bob Baker Marionette Theatre

Our critic Deborah Klugman was smitten with the craftsmanship of Bob Baker's marionettes in the kids theater's seasonal Nutcracker show. Paul Birchall gave compliments to Nora, a new play based on Ibsen's A Doll's House.

For all the latest new theater reviews, and listings of all shows playing this week, see below.

Oceans of gray hair were sighted at the Broad Stage and Colony Theatre last weekend, as this week's stage feature examines why the young are avoiding offerings as good as Hamlet, presented by Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (UK) at the Broad.

In other local theater news, veterans of the stage may remember El Grande de Coca Cola -- a nutty show spoofing a third-rate vaudeville from below every border, hosted by "Senor Don Pepe Hernandez." It came through the Odyssey Theatre in the mid 1980s, co-written and co-directed by Ron House, Alan Shearman, John Neville-Andrews and Diz White. Among White's ontage antics was parading around with bananas on her head, emulating Carmen Miranda.

White, a native of England, and a very funny standup, is also an author. Her latest book, Cotswolds Memoir - Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage was published in May in the UK and she's now launching the book here. (It's a follow-up to her Haunted Costwolds, published in 2010 by UK's The History Press.) She's having a book signing on Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Traveler's Bookcase, 8375 Third Street. More info here.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication November 22, 2012:

 PICK OF THE WEEK: BOB BAKER'S THE NUTCRACKER If you're a parent or grandparent of little ones and/or you love marionettes, you might consider patronizing Bob Baker's The Nutcracker, a presentation from Baker's five-decades-old puppet-theater company. Geared to the preschool set, it's a loose adaptation of the classic Nutcracker tale staged in a spacious room, with high ceilings, ornate chandeliers and shimmery accoutrements. The star feature is a host of rainbow-hued marionettes, gorgeously costumed and representing the story's full spectrum of family, toys and fairies.Kids get to sit on the floor so they can be up front and personal with the puppets. My own favorites among these imaginative creations included a sultan and a belly dancer, a blues band and airborne Wynken, Blynken and Nod puppets (a reference to the 19th-century children's poem). The prerecorded music and narrative won't win any awards, and for grown-ups there's a sugar overload, to be sure. On the other hand, the colorful visuals, including lights and projections, generate their own fantastical magic. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; Sat-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; through Jan. 27. (213) 250-9995, bobbakermarionettes.com (Deborah Klugman)

 GO HAMLET

(L-R) Matthew Romain, Dickon Tyrrell, Michael Benz and Miranda Foster
(L-R) Matthew Romain, Dickon Tyrrell, Michael Benz and Miranda Foster
Noel Vasquez/Wireimage

Presented by Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (UK) and the Broad Stage, Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th Street, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through November 25. (310) 434-3414, thebroadstage.com. See stage feature.

HOW TO SURVIVE A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

Jayne Entwistle and Patrick Bristow
Jayne Entwistle and Patrick Bristow
Theatre Asylum

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. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through Dec. 22.  (800) 838-3006, combinedartform.com, theatreasylum-la.com. (Bill Raden)

HUGHIE

L to R: Andrew Schlessinger and Joe Hulser
L to R: Andrew Schlessinger and Joe Hulser
Maia Rosenfeld

Eugene O'Neill's one-act is part of an intended series of plays under the rubric of "By Way of Obit," essentially monologues about a dead person to a third party. Hughie was the only one published and, though it's not one of the playwright's most popular works, it has showcased marquee actors such as Jason Robards and Al Pacino. After an evening of extended drinking, Erie Smith (Andrew Schlessinger) swaggers into the lobby of his decrepit Manhattan hotel with only the night attendant to keep him company. The reason for this petty gambler's binge was the death of Hughie, the former night clerk, a fact that emerges as Erie gradually regales the new guy (Joe Hulser, adroitly channeling boredom, incredulity and attentiveness) with fables about past times, women he's bedded, big names he's associated with, his hardscrabble youth and all the big money he's pocketed over the years. But beneath the bluster is a frail, vulnerable human being craving connection and redemption, and it is this flawed, softer side that makes the character interesting. Schelssinger turns in a good performance, but he does overwork the "tough-guy hustler" shade of Erie's personality. That quibble notwithstanding, this is a neat, engaging production under Martha Demson's direction. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Wed.-Thurs., Sun., 8 p.m.; also Tues., Dec. 11, 8 p.m.; through Dec. 13. openfist.org. (Lovell Estell III)

THE MORINI STRAD

David Nevell and Marianne Hartley
David Nevell and Marianne Hartley
Michael Lamont

Willy Holtzman's play about an former child prodigy now aging violinist Erica Morini, and the artisan she hires to repair her treasured Stradivarius violin. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third

St., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through December 16.

(818) 558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org. See stage feature.

 GO  NORA

Brad Greenquist and Jeanette Driver
Brad Greenquist and Jeanette Driver
Vitor Martins

Ingmar Bergman's adaptation of A Doll's House restructures Henrik Ibsen's fierce family drama, stripping the play to its emotional essence, a goal that's underscored by director Dana Jackson's spartan but evocative production. On a simple set consisting of some chairs, a Christmas tree in the back and, later, a bed, Jackson's staging puts its emphasis where the play's money is -- on the subtext driving the car crash that is the marriage of Nora and Torvald Helmer. Brad Greenquist's brutally curt and entitled Torvald comes across as the sort of business executive who sees a trophy wife as being merely part of his resume, while Jeanette Driver's Nora, with surface-level bubbliness belying an interior desperation and, yes, horror, is subtle and touching. Add to this Martha Hackett's wan, hard-used Mrs. Linde and Scott Conte's self-loathingly desperate Krogstad, and the production boasts some incredibly nuanced characterizations. Although the decision (by Bergman, not Jackson) to add a dramatic, pace-interrupting sex scene to the final act jars, the clarity and power of the show's performances make this a textbook dynamic production of the tragic drama. Pacific Resident Theatre, 705 ½ Venice Blvd, Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Jan. 27. (310) 822-8392, pacificresidenttheatre.com. (Paul Birchall)

SLIPPED DISC

L to R: Nina Sallinen and Alexander Price
L to R: Nina Sallinen and Alexander Price
Green Card Theatre

Bertolt Brecht, in defining his vision of "epic theater," coined the term Verfremdungseffekt,

or "alienation effect," which implied that in order to be effective,

theater should keep an audience from fully losing itself in the story

being told. Playwright Ingrid Lausund, also German, seems to have

embraced Brecht's vision, but she and Green Card Theatre perhaps take

the concept of alienation further than the master had intended. Set in a

nondescript office, this play consists of a series of vignettes that

attempt to satirize the cutthroat environment of corporate culture.

There is little plot, character development or story to speak of, all of

which hinder audience engagement. Add to that a preponderance of

earsplittingly loud shrieks, howls and buzzer sounds, and the audience

is only further alienated, but in a way that ironically subverts

Brecht's vision. Director Christopher Basile and the cast give it their

all, but if there were anything engaging or impactful in Lausund's

original, the effekt has sadly been lost in translation. Green

Card Theatre at Son of Semele Theater, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Dec. 23. (213) 351-3507, sonofsemele.org/shows/slippeddisc.html. (Mayank Keshaviah)

 GO  TERMINATOR TOO: JUDGMENT PLAY Some of the folks involved with the long-running Point Break Live! have regrouped to present another live spoof of a popular movie, this time putting everyone's favorite action ham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in their sights. The interactive stage show recruits their leading man from the audience, getting willing showoffs to leap onstage, do some push-ups and deliver the iconic line "I'll be back" for an audience rating. The one with the most strangled Austrian accent gets the role for the night and is prompted throughout with dialogue on laminated flash cards presented by a saucy Latina maid (Melanie Minchino). It's tempting to suspect the hero in the performance reviewed was a slightly coached plant; he was way too good. Supporting cast brings ample enthusiasm for the absurd and fast-paced nonsense, especially petite Joya Mia Italiano doing her best, squeaky-voiced Edward Furlong impersonation as the bratty teenager John Connor, and ripped, no-nonsense Christi Waldon as Sarah Connor. Production values are deliberately (and hilariously) low-tech, including robo-costumes made from aluminum roasting trays and cars clearly constructed from cardboard. Plastic ponchos are provided to protect the audience from the barrage of water gunfire and blood splatters throughout. Silly, messy and moderately funny, the show's two 45-minute acts fly by.  The Viper Room, 8852 W. Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Sat., 7:30 & 10:30 p.m.; through Dec. 8. (310) 358-1881, viperroom.com . (Pauline Adamek)



 GO  THEATRE IN THE DARK: MORE DARK Like its sister show Dark, More Dark, the second half of the Odyssey's Theatre in the Dark festival, represents truth in advertising. Save for the odd ghostly hospital monitor or the emergence of one pale, glowing blue eye, this collection of 15 short, moody vignettes offers up nearly 90 minutes of theater in the dark, laced with an immersive soundtrack of things to go bump in the night. Clever, deftly choreographed and technically impressive, the production efficiently transports its audience as far afield as the drizzly London of a randy radio play ("Forbidden Fire") or a fairy-laden British forest (an excerpt from A Midsummer Night's Dream), but the true setting of many of its episodes is the liminal space between consciousness and unconsciousness, life and death, or sanity's thin border, a strange netherworld well calibrated for unleashing the imagination. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd, W.L.A.; Wed. & Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (in rep, call for schedule); through Dec. 16. (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com. (Mindy Farabee)

ONGOING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE:

 GO Anna Lucasta: Phillip Yordan

originally wrote this play for a Polish family, but its blunt theme of

liberated female sexuality was deemed unsuitable for the white public,

so it debuted in 1944 with a black cast. It has since become something

of a staple in the African-American theater canon ( it was also made

into a film with Sammy Davis Jr. and Eartha Kitt). Joe Locasta (Robert

Clements) has thrown daughter Anna (portrayed with girlish seduction,

charm and grainy attitude by Ashlee Olivia), out of his Pennsylvania

home for sleeping around, so she takes up the despoiled life of a New

York B-girl and prostitute. Her fortunes change when Joe's friend sends

his son Rudolf (Dwain A. Perry), into town seeking help with finding the

young man a wife. The $800 he brings with him set off a frenzy of

conniving by covetous relatives to pair their Anna with Rudolf so they

can rip him off, but their scheme amusingly backfires. Notwithstanding

its dated moral perspective, Anna Lucasta is an enjoyable play with

elements of sex, love, family dysfunction and happyily-ever-after

redemption framed with irony and humor. On balance, the performances are

quite good under Ben Guillory's direction. Tom Meleck's bifurcated set

piece is handsome and effective. (Lovell Estell III).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9,

(866) 811-4111. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los

Angeles, www.thelatc.org.

Anything Goes :

Starting Nov. 28, Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Jan. 6. Ahmanson Theatre,

135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

GO The Book of Mormon: That Broadway might have

found its salvation in a religious satire written by some of the

raunchiest theater creators of the past 15 years is ironic. But for all

the sly winks and outright punches thrown, The Book of Mormon -- written by Robert Lopez of Avenue Q and Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

-- has a big ol' surprisingly squishy heart. The plot is simple. Two

young, odd-couple elders in the Church of Latter-Day Saints are assigned

to a village in Uganda for their two-year mission. Once they arrive,

they're faced with people more concerned with how to be saved,

literally, from a vicious warlord, AIDS and poverty than how to be

saved, figuratively, by Christ. If you've ever watched South Park,

you know Parker and Stone's routine: Take the most outrageously

self-satisfied, outlandish, preposterous cultural happenings and say

what everybody else is only thinking. One episode, "Smug Alert!," poked

fun at the "progressive" attitude of San Franciscans by having them stop

midconversation to fart, lean down and inhale deeply. In another, they

take down Puff Daddy's "Vote or Die" campaign by having the rap mogul

actually pull a gun and shoot people. It's safe to say, then, that we

had very particular expectations walking into the West Coast premiere of

The Book of Mormon. Paired with Lopez (see the brilliant song

"Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" from Avenue Q), would there be any soft

underbelly of religion left unstabbed, any guts left unflung all over

the stage? Of course the show is funny. The opening number, "Hello," has

the elders practicing their spiels in the tradition of doggedly going

door-to-door. One bursts out brightly, "Did you know that Jesus lived

here in the USA," while another rings a doorbell over and over,

referencing the joke of people hiding in their houses from the very

persistent Mormons. When elders Price (the spot-on Gavin Creel, who

shakes and slides with the same jerky, loose-limbed moves of a young

Martin Short) and Cunningham (the lovable Jared Gertner, who's going to

have to fight Zach Galifianakis comparisons) find out they're being sent

to Africa in the standout number "Two By Two," one exclaims, "Like Lion

King!" In fact, the writing team has tucked in so many off-the-cuff,

hilariously accurate references that the musical feels like a really

good Easter egg hunt -- you'll still be finding eggs a year later. The

same applies to choreographer and co-director (with Parker) Casey

Nicholaw's razor-sharp dance sequences; you could watch them over and

over and continue to pick up on subtle tricks. Highlights include the

"Thriller" sequence in "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" and the

clap-on/clap-off in sparkling tap number "Turn It Off." The latter

features an excellent performance from Grey Henson, playing the chipper,

closeted, de facto leader of the Mormon compound in Uganda; his future

is blindingly bright. But Parker and Stone have proven time and time

again they know black humor and biting satire and even how to write a

damn good song. What's more impressive is how they have dug deeper and

gotten to the root of our struggle with religion. The age-old question

of "why do bad things happen to good people?," practical applications of

the very unpractical notion of faith, fear of loneliness, not living up

to the expectations of a perfect God and, well, a fiery hell as your

eternity -- the show addresses these issues, but instead of relying on

snarky chortles and eye rolls, the laughter is gentler, tinged with

empathy. They know which buttons to push, but underlying all the ribbing

is a tenderness that prevents the show from being bitter and angry. So,

sure, they might occasionally want to tell God to fuck off -- and hey,

haven't we all? -- but the care they've taken with The Book of Mormon

gives them away. The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.

(Rebecca Haithcoat). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8

p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 25, BookofMormonTheMusical.com. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-365-3500, www.broadwayla.org.

Cabaret: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 9. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast, Malibu,

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

A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!: Written Peter Gwinn and

Bobby Mort, directed by Marc Warzecha. Starting Nov. 29,

Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 6 & 9:30 p.m.; Sundays, 3 &

6:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820

Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

Coney Island Christmas: Donald Margulies' "holiday show for

people of all faiths." Fri., Nov. 23, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 24, 3 & 8

p.m.; Sun., Nov. 25, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tue., Nov. 27, 8 p.m.; Thu., Nov.

29, 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 30, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 1, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun.,

Dec. 2, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 4, 8 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 5, 8 p.m.;

Thu., Dec. 6, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 7, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 8, 3 & 8

p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., Dec.

12, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 13, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 14, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 15,

3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 16, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 18, 8 p.m.;

Wed., Dec. 19, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 21, 8 p.m.;

Sat., Dec. 22, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 2 & 7 p.m.; Mon., Dec.

24, 8 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 26, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 27, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec.

28, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 29, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 30, 2 & 7 p.m.

Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454,

www.geffenplayhouse.com.

The Doctor's Dilemma: George Bernard Shaw's

turn-of-the-century play is a platform for his diatribe against doctors.

Shaw's passionate distrust and satirical takedown of the medical

profession is wrapped up in a slightly dull, five-act drama that's

enlivened by mildly comedic undercurrents and interesting discussions on

contemporary morality. Sir Colenso Ridgeon (Geoff Elliott) has just

been knighted for developing a revolutionary new cure for tuberculosis.

As he celebrates with several colleagues, including some who practice

questionable methods for their own gain, Sir Colenso is petitioned by a

ravishing beauty (Jules Willcox), who begs him to cure her ailing

husband, Louis Dubedat (Jason Dechert). The lovestruck Colenso faces a

series of moral dilemmas that prove his undoing. Dechert is good as the

smoothly charming artist with sublime talents, blithely grifting

everyone he meets without a qualm. Freddy Douglas, however, overplays

his pompous Walpole, giving him a boisterous and shrill tenor that

undermines the comedy. (Pauline Adamek). Sat., Nov. 24, 8 p.m.; Sun.,

Nov. 25, 2 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena,

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

Elevator Repair Service: Gatz: Starting Nov. 28, Tuesdays,

Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 2, 1 p.m.; Sun.,

Dec. 9, 1 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9. REDCAT: Roy and Edna

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

GO Hamlet: A touring production from Shakespeare's

Globe Theatre (UK), directed by Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst.

Fri., Nov. 23, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 24, 2 & 7:30 p.m.;

Sun., Nov. 25, 2 p.m. Eli & Edythe Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa

Monica, 310-434-3414, www.thebroadstage.com. See stage feature.

Hansel and Gretel: Book by Lloyd J. Schwartz, music and lyrics by

Hope and Laurence Juber. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through March 2,

(818) 761-2203. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, www.theatrewest.org.

 GO Intimate Apparel: Lynne Nottage's

lyrical drama tells the tale of the naive-but-indomitable black

seamstress, Esther (Vanessa Williams), in 1905 New York. Esther makes

her living creating fine lingerie, and she's worked 18 years to save

enough money to launch her dream -- a beauty salon for black women.

She's accepted the fact that love and marriage are not in her future --

though there's a strong attraction between her and the Hasidic fabric

dealer, Mr. Marks (Adam J. Smith). Then she receives a series of

affectionate letters from George (David St. Louis), a handsome young

Caribbean man who's working on the Panama Canal. Since Esther can't read

or write, she relies on her customers, the prostitute Mayme (Kristy

Johnson), and the wealthy-but-dissatisfied white woman, Mrs. Van Buren

(Angel Reda), to read the letters and write her replies. When George

proposes marriage, despite the warnings of her practical, cynical

landlady (Dawnn Lewis), and the fact that she's never seen him, she

accepts, with disastrous results. Director Sheldon Epps leads a fine

cast in a deft, subtly calibrated production, and Williams makes a

gallant, vulnerable figure of Esther. John Iacovelli's diaphanous,

fabric-dominated set and Leah Piehl's lacy costumes echo the lingerie

motif. (Neal Weaver). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 2. Pasadena

Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

The Morini Strad: Written by Willy Holtzman, directed by

Stephanie Vlahos, starring Mariette Hartley. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.;

Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16.

Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org. See Theater feature.

Nothing to Hide: Written by Derek DelGaudio, directed by Neil

Patrick Harris. Starting Nov. 27, Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8

& 10:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Jan. 6. Geffen

Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.

Tea, With Music: Book and lyrics by Velina Hasu Houston, music by

Nathan Wang. Presented by East West Players. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9. David Henry Hwang

Theater, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles, 213-625-7000.

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

Angels Fall: Written by Lanford Wilson, directed by Alex Egan.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22,

(800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles.

 GO Avenue Q : How can you not like a musical

puppet show that looks a little like Sesame Street but sounds more like

South Park? Director Richard Israel's charming local production of the

Tony Award-winning musical proves that the show plays brilliantly on a

small, intimate stage. After all, Avenue Q is at its heart a puppet

show, and what's the point if you're so far back in the house you can't

see the puppets? Utilizing a fast-paced staging that's rich with

youthful energy, as well as angst, the show boasts some hilarious and

surprisingly subtle performers, who also manipulate their puppet

characters with style and acrobatic skill. Admittedly, the show is

essentially a straightforward staging of the Broadway script -- a nice

introduction to the work, but if you've already seen the play, it's not

certain that this production adds much to it. Still, it's easy to enjoy

Chris Kauffman's amusingly ironic turn as mousy puppet Princeton, and

Danielle Judovits' beautifully vulnerable Kate Monster -- and it's fun

to experience the lively renditions of peppy ditties on topics as

diverse as masturbation, racism and puppet sex. (Paul Birchall).

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16,

(323) 802-4990, domatheatre.com. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave.,

Los Angeles, www.themettheatre.com.

 GO Bad Apples: Anybody concerned that Circle

X's new musical about America's most notorious prisoner-torture atrocity

was going to be some sort of Abu Ghraib: The Musical! can rest easy;

Bad Apples is a thoughtful, penetrating and theatrically thrilling

meditation on the all-too-human dimensions of what Hannah Arendt

famously called the banality of evil. No mere docu-musical, playwright

Jim Leonard's nonlinear book is more a palimpsest of the newspaper

headlines in which real names and relationships have been freely

overwritten, not to protect the innocent but to drive home the point

that, when it comes to the psychodynamics of unchecked power and

authority, nobody is innocent. James Black gives a powerful performance

as the seductively charismatic military prison guard who draws both an

uneducated subordinate (an outstanding Kate Morgan Chadwick) and his

immediate superior (the fine Meghan McDonough) first into a

sadomasochistic menage a trois and then into scandal and criminal

disgrace. Director John Langs' electrifying cabaret staging (on

Francois-Pierre Couture's stylish tier-block set) and Cassandra

Daurden's dynamic choreography make the three-hour show fly. The

evening's real star however, may be the supremely accomplished rock

score by composer-lyricists Rob Cairns and Beth Thornley. It is their

tortured torch songs, hip-hop metal arias and soaring love ballads whose

wit, poetry and memorable pop hooks elevate the grotesquely abhorrent

into the profoundly universal. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 1. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269

Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com. Also, see Stage feature.

Bad Evidence:

Playwright Terry Quinn's bleakest of black comedies resides in a

savagely misanthropic literary suburb where friends and neighbors go by

names like LaBute and Albee and Strindberg. It's the kind of

neighborhood where deception and sexual betrayal are as ubiquitous as

backyard barbecues, and where words not only cut like a knife but are

also usually wielded with a homicidal intent. Act 1 features a

lacerating, coital dance of death by Glory Simon and James Wagner (in a

marvelously malign duet) as marrieds whose mutual contempt has become a

bitterly sadomasochist conjugal embrace. Act 2's cocktail party of the

damned widens the focus to include their incestuous circle of pranking

emotional ambushers (that includes standout Justin Sintic). Director

Katie Sabrira Rubin delivers a seamless staging (amid Adam Haas Hunter's

clever set pieces), but neither she nor her capable ensemble can

finally anchor the play's glib cynicism in a recognizable or

toxicity-mitigating humanity. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9, (323) 960-7712, plays411.com. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

 GO The Beat Goes On!: This is the fourth

installment of a series of shows, under the overall title of Rockin'

With the Ages, designed to provide opportunities for performers older

than 60. Although there has always been formidable talent involved, the

first edition, back in 2009, was a simple, slightly slap-dash showcase.

But each successive edition revealed an increase in professionalism.

Now, the producers have recruited David O for the sharp musical

direction and sophisticated arrangements, Cate Caplin for the slick

choreography, Keith Mitchell for the silvery art deco set and Ann

Closs-Farley for the spiffy costumes, and the show looks ready for prime

time. Fifteen seasoned pros deliver a sparkling variety show that

includes an eclectic array of material, from ballroom dancing to tap, a

medley of Al Jolson songs, a tribute to George M. Cohan and even a

hip-hop rap number. The songs include lesser-known stuff like "Bye-Bye

Blues," as well as standard favorites like "Shakin' the Blues Away" and

"Give Me a Kiss to Build a Dream On," plus musical comedy gems like

"When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love, I Love the Girl I'm Near" and

"Hernando's Hideaway." (Neal Weaver). Sundays, 1 & 5 p.m.; Fridays, 8

p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 25. Arena Stage

at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian Arena Theater), 1625 N. Las

Palmas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-595-4849.

 GO Bob Baker's Nutcracker: Saturdays,

Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Jan.

27. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles,

213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com. See New Reviews.

  GO A Bright New Boise:

Ever wonder what transpires in the heart and mind of a fundamentalist

zealot? Samuel D. Hunter ventures into that murky terrain in his dark,

droll and ultimately explosive work A Bright New Boise, set in a

soulless big-box store in Boise, Idaho. Just arrived from a small town,

new hire Will (Matthew Elkins) comes across as a gentle guy and docile

worker, although his authorship of a Christian e-novel does set him

oddly apart from the average Joe. Will's motive for procuring this

particular dead-end job is to introduce himself for the first time to

another store employee: his biological son, Alex (Erik Odom). Raised in

foster homes, Alex is looked after by his foster brother, Leroy (a

razor-sharp Trevor Peterson), a snaky, irreverent rule-breaker

determined to protect the unstable boy from the psychological predator

he deems Will to be. Funny, compassionate and disturbing all at once,

Hunter's quintessentially American scenario portrays an individual

trapped in an emotional and cultural wasteland, his life configured by

uncaring impersonal forces, his spirit hobbled by unnamed guilt. Elkins'

performance -- so palpable and so genuine he might be the guy standing

next to you in the supermarket line -- captures it all. Betsy Zajko is

on the mark as a no-nonsense, anti-union store manager with a

compassionate streak and a relenting heart, while Heather L. Tyler, as

Will's coequally isolated co-worker, compounds the pathos. Designer

David Mauer's set aptly reflects the unvarnished bleakness of these

characters' lives. John Perrin Flynn directs. (Deborah Klugman).

Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through

Dec. 9. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles,

855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

Cartoon Dump: TV animation's lost awfulness, courtesy Jerry Beck and

Frank Conniff. Fourth Monday of every month, 8 p.m., $10. Trepany House

at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles,

323-666-4268, www.trepanyhouse.org.

The Coarse Acting Show: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun.,

Dec. 2, 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15. Sacred

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

Dirty Filthy Love Story: Rob Mersola's "darker than black

comedy." Starting Nov. 24, Sat., Nov. 24, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.;

Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Dec. 29. Rogue Machine

Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

Dungeons & Groundlings: All-new sketch and improv,

directed by Deanna Oliver. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m.

Continues through Jan. 26. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los

Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

Finding Barb: Barbara Heller has taken her personal quest

for her spiritual path and turned it into an earnest and sweet musical.

The show's pretty songs -- beautifully sung -- are composed by Avi

Avliav, who performs live on electric piano, conveying sensitivity and

flair. (Two songs are credited to co-composer Katie Thompson.) Heller,

who wrote the book and lyrics and also stars, dominates the stage with

her confessional, acting out episodes from her life alongside co-star

David Scales. Scales plays every male Barb encounters, including her

father, doctor, rabbis and various boyfriends. Heller's younger sister

is shown on video as a hand puppet, dispensing sage advice. Unafraid to

play dorky, sometimes childish and ever hopeful, Heller brings a

fearless approach to her story that proves endearing. Director Eve

Minemar has selected a bare-bones staging approach that complements

Heller's courageous, unvarnished performance. While somewhat appealing,

this tale is not all that compelling. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays, 8

p.m. Continues through Jan. 10, findingbarbshow.com. Working Stage

Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., Los Angeles, 323-851-2603, www.workingstage.com.

The Fisherman's Wife / Doesn't Anyone Know What a Pancreas Is?:

A distant offspring of "tentacle" (sci-fi or horror-themed) porn, Steve

Yockey's bizarre sex comedy builds around an estranged husband and wife

whose disintegrating relationship is treated by a mysterious nomad.

Carrying a knapsack of unusual sex aids, the unorthodox marriage

counselor (Patrick Flanagan) calls on the embittered, frustrated Vanessa

(Sarah McCarron) while her mate, Cooper (Michael Hanson), is off

fishing. While Vanessa is being sexually relieved and enlightened, the

helpless Cooper is undergoing brutal rape by a duplicitous squid-octopus

duo (Kim Chueh and Gary Patent). The play, an outrageously raucous

cartoon, comes with an ick factor that will make some people laugh,

others wince (count me in here), and still others react both ways.

Flanagan's oddball shaman is sharply and drolly drawn, whereas McCarron

and Hanson are missing the details that make for a smartly etched

caricature. Chueh is an appropriately smarmy cephalopod, while John

Burton's puppets compound the weird humor. Gates McFadden directs.

(Deborah Klugman). Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 13, (323)

644-1929, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269

Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

 GO Foote Notes: A Young Lady of Property & The Land of the Astronauts:

Subtlety and skill are on ample display in this duo of Horton Foote

one-acts, directed by Scott Paulin. "A Woman of Property," set in

Foote's Harrison, Texas, in 1925, revolves around a high-spirited,

15-year-old named Wilma (Juliette Goglia), whose mom has died and whose

dad is about to remarry and sell the family home. In an outstanding

turn, Goglia's performance captures both the innocence of the play's

time and place and the spirit of confused rebellious adolescence that

transcends it. In "The Land of the Astronauts," set in 1983, the modern

world looms closer to Harrison. The plot concerns a young family nearly

torn apart when the father (Aaron McPherson), overcome by a sense of

futility, goes off the deep end and pursues his fantasy of being an

astronaut. Laetitia Leon is spot-on as his warm, lovely wife, Lorena,

who doesn't quite understand but knows how to comfort her man and get

him back on track. Supporting performances help weave the sense of

community that is the hallmark of Foote's work: among them Talyan

Wright, beguiling and utterly professional as Lorena's young daughter,

and Matt Little as the helpful young deputy obviously vulnerable to

Lorena's charm. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2

p.m. Continues through Dec. 15. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica

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

Hah Nah :

A Korean U.S. Army field nurse trying to track down her missing father

while encamped in his hometown during the Korean War seems like fertile

ground. But the tree that emerges from it, nurtured by writer and

performer Joy Cha, unfortunately never bears fruit. Part of that has to

do with the fact that, unlike in mostly solo performance, Cha neither

speaks directly to us nor embodies multiple characters through vocal and

physical shifts. Instead she acts out the story as if other characters

were actually onstage -- tracking their movements and responding to

their unheard lines. The issue with such an approach is that, since

their lines remain unheard, hers become heavily expositional, describing

the story instead of dramatizing it. Cha's miming of physical

interactions with imaginary actors is disconcerting as well, and

something that director Gary Lee Reed should have eschewed. Overall, the

piece feels like a series of conversations whose roots point to an

underlying vitality, but one that remains buried in the dirt. (Mayank

Keshaviah). Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 25, hahnah.com. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 25, combinedartform.com. Theatre

Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com. See New Reviews

Hughie: By Eugene O'Neill, directed by Martha Demson. Wednesdays, 8

p.m.; Sun., Nov. 25, 8 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 29, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 6, 8

p.m.; Tue., Dec. 11, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 13, 8 p.m. Continues through

Dec. 13. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles,

323-882-6912, www.openfist.org. See New Reviews.

 GO In the Red and Brown Water:

Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney sets this music-, dance- and

myth-infused work in the "distant present," weaving his story around

talented young athlete Oya (Diarra Kilpatrick), who risks her future to

care for her ailing mother. The play charts a downhill course for this

lovely, open-hearted person: Her mother dies, the prized scholarship

goes to someone else and Oya is trapped in the barrio, plagued with

passion for an unfaithful lover (Gilbert Glenn Brown) and for the same

fulfillment as every other woman in her circumscribed community -- a

child. It's no accident that Oya's barrenness parallels the predicament

in Federico Garcia Lorca's Yerma, or that she bears the name of a Yoruba

goddess. McCraney pulls together a confluence of elements -- although

predominantly Yoruba -- to present a visceral fable that rises up from

the underbelly of America. Kilpatrick's portrayal embraces every bit of

her feisty, soulful character, made more compelling by the intimate

performance space. Brown's slick, calibrated womanizer is an aptly

fashioned foil and the remaining ensemble is strong. But designer

Frederica Nascimento's set, with its pale walls and light wood backdrop,

is too tidy and sterile to reflect the play's darkness. Shirley Jo

Finney directs. (Deborah Klugman). Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through

Dec. 16. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles,

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

 GO

Justin Love: The tiny Celebration Theater can barely contain

the energy and talent bursting from every aspect of this world-premiere

musical that both blasts and lionizes Hollywood through through the

tale of an action-movie superstar coming out of the closet. Structurally

the piece follows the classic 20th-century Broadway musical form, with

the book by David Elzer (who, full disclosure, is a publicist with whom

the Weekly works often) and Patricia Cotter skillfully recounting the

story of fresh-faced Midwestern newbie Chris (Tyler Ledon) whose

apprenticeship with Cruella-like publicist Buck (Alet Taylor) leads him

to a secret affair with super-hot star Justin (Adam Huss). Sharp

performances by these stars, along with an equally fine ensemble --

every one of whom can really sing and act -- make Michael Matthews'

expert direction even stronger. But what makes this truly special is an

extremely smart (not just clever) package of music and lyrics by Lori

Scarlett and David Manning (beautifully realized by music director John

Ballinger) that recalls the style of William Finn's Falsettos series of

musicals from the 1990s. There is still some trimming and tuning in

store for this piece as it grows from its present digs to a larger

space, as it is likely to do. Even within the limits of this theater,

the multi-use set by Stephen Gifford, with inventive use of projections

by Jason H. Thompson, give the production its sense of largeness. (Tom

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

through Dec. 16, plays411.com. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica

Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.

 GO The Magic Bullet Theory:

Terry Tocantins and Alex Zola's The Magic Bullet Theory is the second

play to be produced locally this year focusing on the 1963 JFK

assassination. Dennis Richard's Oswald: The Actual Interrogation was

performed in January and February at Write-Act Repertory, also in

Hollywood. Though strategically ambiguous, Richmond Shepard's staging of

Richard's play appeared at least in part to support the lone-gunman

theory (the conclusion drawn by the Warren Commission): that a single

ricocheting bullet (from one of three shots) killed the president of the

United States and wounded Texas Gov. John Connally, both of whom were

riding in the sedan with their wives as part of a parade through Dealey

Plaza in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. With the exception of a couple of

flashbacks, Oswald arrived at its view through an extended interrogation

scene between the accused Lee Harvey Oswald and a mild-mannered Dallas

Police Department captain, Will Fritz -- a scene cobbled together from

Fritz's hand-scribbled notes. That production also posited the

suggestion that Oswald had been framed. The tone of that production

combined the noir melodrama of Dragnet and Law and Order, honoring the

almost theological conviction of baby boomers that those three shots

heard around the world in November 1963 represented the beginning of the

end of innocence for the United States. The Magic Bullet Theory,

however, written and produced by post-baby boomers, defies all such

reverence, and with that defiance carries a healthy skepticism that any

era of American history, or any other history for that matter, was

innocent. Its larger point is its derision for the controversial single-

or "magic" bullet theory. As directed by JJ Mayes, it presents a

sketch-comedy conspiracy, irreverently choreographed by Natasha Norman,

that unambiguously leaves the Warren Commission report in tatters. In

fact, one scene dramatizes the single-bullet theory with an actor

holding a bullet, which carries a tail of red string, from the

assassin's rifle to and through the passengers (actors posing dutifully

in a cardboard cutout of the open sedan). The scene demonstrates the

trajectory of the bullet, which would have almost had to reverse

directions in midair to support the single-bullet theory, in the

meantime slicing through 15 layers of clothing, about 15 inches of

tissue and a necktie knot, taking out a chunk of rib and shattering a

radius bone. (This point of view also could be found in Oliver Stone's

movie JFK as well as its parody on Seinfeld.) The play replaces that

theory with a highly speculative suggestion that the assassination was a

botched conspiracy, headed by The Texan (Rick Steadman) -- Lyndon

Baines Johnson goes unnamed -- employing a couple of "Yale-Fuck" killers

(Pete Caslavka and Monica Greene), as well as Oswald (Michael Holmes),

plus Charles Harrelson (Tocantins), who, with Oswald by his side, fires

shots before placing the murdering rifle into dimwit Oswald's hands,

thereby also supporting the notion that Oswald was framed. Life may be

stranger than fiction, but this fiction hangs on the most tenuous of

threads: that the Texas contingent and the CIA were so peeved by

President Kennedy's soft handling of Cuba, they just wanted to scare

him, to let him know what they could do if he didn't stand up to Castro.

In flashback, we see The Texan order the parade slowed to 10 miles an

hour so the hired guns could fire and miss, sending a message,

Mafia-style. But something went terribly, terribly wrong. Imagine the

JFK assassination replayed by Monty Python. The Brit sketch-comedy

troupe infuriated millions of Catholics with its version of the

Crucifixion in Life of Brian. (The crowd whistles to the lyric "Always

look on the bright side of life" as the Savior hangs and nods in

rhythm.) The Magic Bullet Theory is a comparatively local sacrilege -- a

couple of thugs dance in slo-mo, mock anguish whenever they see

somebody killed. The production dances gleefully with nihilism, finding

its footing somewhere between bravery and childishness. (Steven Leigh

Morris). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through

Dec. 15, $25, plays411.com/magicbullet. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-1445, www.matrixtheatre.com.

 GO Point Break Live! :

Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick

starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as

surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of

Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by

directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3).

Saturdays, 8 p.m., (866) 811-4111, theatermania.com. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, www.thedragonfly.com.

Room 105:

The Highs and Lows of Janis Joplin: It takes singer Sophie B. Hawkins a

song or two to perfect Janis Joplin's gravelly growl, but she gets

there just in time and maintains the requisite throaty cackle of the

bad-girl icon throughout. Though Hawkins' girl-next-door prettiness

needs a bit more roughing up to achieve a true Joplin metamorphosis, her

singing carries the show. But writer-director Gigi Gaston's thin

storyline tells us nothing new about Joplin and veers into caricature

territory far too often. Fans of the Joplin songbook likely will enjoy

the covers, but those expecting any glimpses beyond the streetwise

flower-girl public persona Joplin perfected before her untimely death

will feel shortchanged. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings

Road, West Hollywood, 323-654-0680, www.machatheatre.org/home.html.

The Santaland Diaries: Paolo Andino stars in David Sedaris' holiday play. Presented by The Blank Theatre. Fri., Nov. 23, 8 p.m., plays411.com. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-4446, www.stellaadler-la.com.

 GO Silence! The Musical: In the daft and

campy Silence! The Musical, based on beloved Grand Guignol horror film

The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal (the Cannibal) Lecter doesn't just

eat a liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti: He also sings in a

lovely baritone. This droll retelling of the film -- book by Hunter

Bell, music and lyrics by Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan -- is clearly

targeted at fans of the movie, and the material assumes a certain amount

of familiarity with the original work. However, within that context,

director Christopher Gattelli dishes up some brilliant stagecraft.

Opening with a band of singing and narrating chorines in lamb costumes,

the play follows the same narrative trajectory of the film, but with

surprisingly ambitious, yet ghoulish, production numbers meshing a South

Park sensibility with crisp choreography, cheerful (though not

particularly memorable) music and smirking irony. Although the work is

straightforward, the Carol Burnett Show-style parody tends to wear thin

after about an hour and a half. Still, it's hard not to find the overall

quirkiness irresistible. As FBI Agent Clarice Starling, Christina Lakin

does a perfect deadpan imitation of Jodie Foster -- but the true

standout is Davis Gaines' dead-on, leeringly charismatic turn as the

amusingly menacing, cannibalistic killer. (Paul Birchall).

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

Dec. 9, (866) 811-4111, silencethemusical.com/. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, www.thehayworth.com.

Slipped Disc: Ingrid Lausund's dark comedy. Translated by

Henning Bochert. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 23. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles,

213-351-3507, www.sonofsemele.org. See New Reviews

Terminator Too :

Judgement Play: From the creators of Point Break Live!. Saturdays, 7:30

& 10:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 8. The Viper Room, 8852 W.

Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-358-1881, www.viperroom.com. See New Reviews.

Yard

Sale This Sunday!: Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose

Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS IN THE VALLEYS

:

Astroglyde XX: Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16. Zombie

Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood,

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

A Christmas Carol: Starting Nov. 29, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive

Ave., Burbank, 818-528-6622, www.gtc.org.

GO Kong: A Goddamn Thirty-Foot Gorilla: Adam Hahn's spoofy

homage to King Kong, the 1933 creature feature about a colossal gorilla

that is captured and then runs amok in New York City, is an ambitious

undertaking. Just how do you depict a giant ape onstage without

stop-motion animation trickery and cinema magic? Director Jaime

Robledo's brand of creative staging and low-tech gimmickry include

trompe l'oeil shifts in perspective and scale. So when platinum blonde,

bewigged scream queen Anne (Sara Kubida) is in the grip of Kong's giant

paw, the actor playing Kong (all snuffles and primal bellowing from

Germaine De Leon) can be seen clutching a Barbie doll. Cast members tilt

and sway in unison to suggest the passage of a ship. Tifanie McQueen's

scenic and prop designs are minimal and effective, and curiously less

complicated to reset than the lengthy scenes in front of the curtain

should warrant. Yet some of these odd scenes, including shipman Jack

Driscoll's (Eric Curtis Johnson) confessions to an AA meeting and the

Skull Island native chief (Arden Haywood) shedding his headdress to

instruct us about "race" movies from the 1930s, offer some deliciously

amusing rewards. Audience members are enlisted into the air squadron for

Kong's Empire State Building-set climactic demise with a supply of

do-it-yourself paper airplanes. (Pauline Adamek). Saturdays, Sundays.

Continues through Dec. 9, (800) 838-3006, SkyPilotTheatre.com. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.

Much Ado About Nothing: Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 7. Zombie

Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood,

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


The Muesli Belt: Is there a sadder place on Earth than a shabby bar with

only a couple booze-soaked regulars parked on the stools day in and day

out? Playwright Jimmy Murphy is from Ireland, so he probably drew from

real-life experience to create Black Pool, the pub that's the setting

for his play about gentrification in Dublin. Longtime owner Mick (John

McKenna) is worn out by his struggling business and worn down by a glib

developer (Andrew Graves, as shiny-slimy as a car salesman), but heavy

on his conscience is what effect his decisions will have on his

faithful, resistant-to-change customers. Plenty of plays have made fresh

the issue of gentrification -- a recent one concerning East L.A.,

Evangeline, the Queen of Make-Believe, comes to mind. But in Murphy's

work, the outcome is clear from the top of Act I, and like the Black

Pool barflies, the play seems just too damn tired to fight it. At least

Kathleen M. Darcy's salon owner, Nora, even with red-rimmed eyes, doughy

face, bleach-stained shirt and her demands of "encore" after she slams a

vodka, has a little fizz left in her yet. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 2. The

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

www.theatrebanshee.org.

One November Yankee: Written and directed by Joshua Ravetch, starring

Harry Hamlin and Loretta Swit. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3

p.m. Continues through Jan. 5. NoHo Arts Center, 11020 Magnolia Blvd.,

North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com.

 GO You Can't Take It With You: Imagine a home where live snakes,

spontaneous ballet dancing, fireworks explosions and occasional

xylophone playing are ho-hum affairs, and you'll have an idea of the

unhinged eccentrics in this delightful production of George S. Kaufman

and Moss Hart's 70-year-old Depression-era comedy You Can't Take It With

You. The Sycamore household is part carnival, part asylum. Penny is an

aspiring Picasso, and also fancies herself a successful dramatist (with a

bulging stack of unfinished plays to prove it). Her hubby Paul

specializes in explosives and chance ignitions, while daughter Essie

consistently flutters about like a prima ballerina. Grandpa (Joseph

Ruskin, in a wonderful performance), enjoys the life of a retiree, but

has some ugly tax problems, and daughter Alice, who is in love with her

boss' son and wants to marry him, must try to bring her beau's snobby

parents into the Sycamore fold. The operative word here is fun; there

always seems to be some monkeyshines going on and there are a few

pleasant surprises that pop up. Director Gigi Bermingham has done an

excellent job of balancing the play's comedic elements and pacing the

three acts, and Tom Buderwitz's set design is marvelous. Note that as

with all Antaeus productions, the play is double-cast. (Lovell Estell

III). Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 9. The Antaeus Company

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

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

 GO Bald Soprano: A Christmas Anti-Play: Even after 60 years and

counting, Eugene Ionesco's classic absurdist farce The Bald Soprano is

still one of France's most popular and frequently produced plays. And as

director Frederique Michel demonstrates in this steadfastly enjoyable

revival, it's still good for a load of laughs. The opening tableau

reveals a middle-aged Parisian couple, the Smiths (Jeff Atik, David E.

Frank in drag, skillfully blending impertinence and camp), relaxing at

home. She decorates the Christmas tree and discusses banal details about

dinner, while he responds with outbursts of guttural gibberish from

behind a newspaper. Things turn even more bizarre with the arrival of

Mr. and Mrs. Martin (Bo Roberts, Cynthia Mance) -- who initially don't

seem to even know each other -- and a loquacious Fire Chief (Mitchell

Colley). The evening gradually segues into a frenetic outbreak of

meaningless chatter, jarring non sequiturs, grade-school storytelling

and oddball silliness, all of which Michel and her cast (which includes

Lena Kay as a ditzy maid) serve up with impeccable comedic skill and

elan. Ionesco satirizes middle-class manners and banality, and at the

same time constructs a dramatic environment where logic, language and

reality are wittily disassociated, and therein is the fun and laughs in

the piece. Cast performances under Michel's direction are first-rate.

(Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m.

Continues through Dec. 23, brownpapertickets.com/event/289020. City

Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa

Monica, 310-453-9939, www.citygarage.org.


A Child Left Behind: Written and performed by Alan Aymie. Thursdays, 8

p.m. Continues through Dec. 20. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport,

Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.


Enchanted April: Written by Matthew Barber, directed by Gail Bernardi.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16.

Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific

Palisades, 310-454-1970, www.theatrepalisades.org.

The Last Romance: Written by Joe DiPietro, directed by James Paradise.

Fri., Nov. 23, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 24, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sat.,

Dec. 1, 8 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 18.

Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills,

310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.


The Long Way Home: Reflections on the Tracers Journey: In 1980,

playwright-director John DiFusco's ensemble drama Tracers became one of

the decade's great independent works of theater and a rallying point for

the then-emergent Vietnam Veterans' movement. In this new solo show,

DiFusco attempts to put the experience of creating Tracers into a

greater context -- one that is part history and, again, part therapy.

It's an often compelling autobiography, told passionately and

evocatively, with DiFusco's personal narrative drifting from his postwar

days on the road to the rehearsal process for the production, and then

to the triumphant subsequent productions in Chicago and New York. (If

you think the Viet Cong were cunning adversaries, DiFusco notes, you

have yet to meet enemies as ferocious as Gary Sinise and Joseph Papp,

with whom DiFusco locked horns over the years). Director John Perrin

Flynn's staging is crisp and assured, with DiFusco appearing intense and

friendly, but the piece is ultimately more of a theatrical anecdote

than major important work. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.

Continues through Nov. 24. USVAA: United States Veterans' Artists

Alliance, 10858 Culver Blvd., Culver City, 310-559-2116, www.usvaa.org.


Mrs. Mannerly: Written by Jeffrey Hatcher, directed by Robert Mackenzie.

Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Through Nov. 28, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec.

8, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 2 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 15, 8 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 14. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno,

Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.


 GO Nora: Adapted from Ibsen's A Doll's House by Ingmar Bergman, English

translation by Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker, directed by

Dana Jackson. Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues

through Jan. 27. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice,

310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.  See New Reviews.

Orestes 3.0: Inferno: This world premiere is another installment of

Charles L. Mee's reimagining of Euripides' Greek tragedy Orestes,

relating the violent, politically challenging myth to contemporary

society. While awaiting trial for murdering his mother, Orestes (Johanny

Paulino) is being tortured by three Furies. His sister, Electra (Megan

Kim), with whom he has an incestuous relationship, is tugging him back

from the brink of madness. Mee has woven in references to L.A., as Helen

of Troy (the fine Katrina Nelson) prances out in a Marilyn-esque

bathing suit, talking about her skincare regimen; later, the cast

"drives" rolling chairs while checking their iPhones and trying not to

crash. True to form, Mee never shies away from discussions of graphic

sex, and S&M figures prominently. The problem stems not from his

adaptation (though 20 minutes could be shaved off) but from the company

executing it. Mee has a longtime collaborative relationship with Anne

Bogart's SITI Company, a natural fit for the intensely physical

component of most of his scripts. While Frédérique Michel's choreography

and direction are artful attempts, her cast is, for the most part,

simply not seasoned enough to produce a cohesive vision. (Rebecca

Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues

through Nov. 25. City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525

Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-453-9939, www.citygarage.org.


Present Laughter: Noel Coward's comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sun., Dec. 2, 7 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 7 p.m.; Thu.,

Dec. 13, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15. Little Fish Theatre, 777

Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.

Silent: Written and performed by Pat Kinevane. Fridays, Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 29, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 6, 8 p.m.;

Thu., Dec. 13, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16. Odyssey Theatre, 2055

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

Smoke and Mirrors: Written by and starring Albie Selznick. Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 31, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 31,

(800) 595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Promenade Playhouse, 1404

Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, www.promenadeplayhouse.com.

GO  Theatre in the Dark: Dark (Evening One): This collection of vignettes is

performed entirely in the dark. No, really -- upon arrival, you'll

notice a solitary candle burning at stage center, which after the

preshow announcements is blown out, plunging us into 90 minutes of inky

darkness, only very occasionally alleviated by a momentary flash or

murky ghost light. Lord help you if you have claustrophobia! If not,

however, the collection of one-act sketches is an unexpectedly vivid

series of ghost stories, radio-style dramas and other mysterious

theatrical episodes that emphasize virtually all senses but sight.

Incidents range in tone from Anna Nicholas' macabre "Our Dark

Connection," in which seemingly random members of the audience are

dragged out of their seats and into the black by an unseen monster, to

Friedrich Durrenmatt's compellingly disturbing "The Tunnel," a narrated

tale of a man who discovers he's on a train to oblivion (both are

directed with maximum eeriness by Ron Sossi). "One of the Lost" is

Ernest Kearney's spooky tale of the ghostly final transmission of a

Russian cosmonaut on a secret space mission. John Zalewski's sound

design is incredibly evocative -- and Sossi and his co-directors

artfully manipulate all the senses within the live performance to craft a

set of dramas that utilize darkness almost as a character. (Paul

Birchall). Wednesdays, Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 16.

Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055,

www.odysseytheatre.com.

 GO  Theatre in the Dark: More Dark (Evening Two):  Wednesdays, Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 16.

Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com. See New Reviews.


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