Jessica Sherman PhotgraphyEric Curtis Johnson in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? at Sacred Fools Theatre
This was a week marked by enthusiasm by our various critics: Bill Raden praised Sacred Fools' production of Edward Einhorn's 2010 adaptation of Philip K. Dick sci-fi book Do Androids Dream of Sleep?, which is this week's Pick. Pauline Adamek was smitten with Hayworth Theatre's production of the musical bare. Jenny Lower had very positive things to say about Breath and Imagination: The Story of Roland Hayes, about the first internationally lauded African-American classical singer, being performed at Burbank's Colony Theatre. Deborah Klugman praised Joyce Carol Oates' Tone Clusters at Theatricum Botanicum. And Paul Birchall found the 2010 musical The Burnt Part Boys, now at Third Street Theater, to be captivating. For all the latest new theater reviews, and comprehensive theater listings, see below.
Annoyance with capricious authority has been around for a while -- at least since Prometheus Bound, a 5th century B.C. play that may or may not have been written by Aeschylus. There's some dispute about that. There's no dispute that Joel Agee wrote the translation currently at Getty Villa and presented by CalArts Center for New Performance. The same theme of authority on the rocks shows up in comedic form in Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! at Actors' Co-op in Hollywood. Both plays are reviewed in this week's theater feature.
Also of note: L.A. Stage Alliance's 2013 Ovation Awards nominees have been announced.
NEW REVIEWS, scheduled for publication September 19, 2013:
GO AH, WILDERNESS!
Lindsay SchneblyNicholas Podany and Melody Hollis
Eugene O'Neill's idyllic American comedy, about a young man, his young love, and his coming-of-age. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles, 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org. See theater feature.
GO: BARE A closeted gay couple in a Catholic boarding school struggle with their secret love affair. Peter (a superb Payson Lewis) wants to come out to his mom and the world, but Jason (an equally outstanding Jonah Platt) refuses, dreading the fallout. Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo's contemporary rock opera is uplifting despite its sorrowful elements, and the courage of the writers -- and the talented cast -- to plumb the complexities of adolescence, including bullying, cutting, teen pregnancy and burgeoning sexuality, grants us a fantastic musical journey. The writers also forge an intricate, effective parallel between our heroes' clandestine love affair and the star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet by having the school kids rehearse the play throughout. Lindsay Pearce as Ivy, the girl who comes between the guys, is a standout, her pure, strong voice conveying her vulnerability. The songs vary in style from rock anthems to wistful ballads, powerfully performed by a top-notch cast and band, including Alex Seller, who alternates effortlessly between shredding on electric guitar and plucking delicate melodies on acoustic guitar. A muddy sound mix sometimes obscures the incisive lyrics, but this is an affecting show that is not to be missed. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Westlake; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; through Sept. 22. (310) 213-6955, ¬thehayworth.com. (Pauline Adamek)
GO: BREATH AND IMAGINATION: THE STORY OF ROLAND HAYES
Michael LamontKaran Kendrick and Elijah Rock
Daniel Beaty's West Coast premiere revives the lost-to-history account of Roland Hayes, a son of former slaves and the first internationally lauded African-American classical singer. Raised in the South on hard work and spirituals, Hayes (Elijah Rock) overcomes early tragedy to perform in Chattanooga's black churches. When an instructor intervenes to provide professional training, Hayes confronts the objections of his sassily beatific mother, Angel Mo (Karan Kendrick), who believes her son is destined for life as a preacher. Condensing Hayes' life story inevitably leads to some whiplash plot twists and hurried catharsis, but Rock and Kendrick's chemistry under Saundra McClain's direction sustains and clarifies the play's themes. Accompanist Kevin Ashworth tackles a grab-bag of supporting roles, perhaps most jarringly as Hayes' father, when his pale skin imbues the endearment "boy" with inadvertent menace. But his presence offers a pleasing, if farcical, dimension. Shaun Motley's handsome, sweeping wooden set stands in for Georgia fields and concert halls alike. Most stirring is Rock's lustrous timbre as the mature Hayes: Harmonizing with Kendrick through earthy spirituals, he soars through von Gluck's "O Del Mio Dolce Ardor" before dipping into a soul-trembling version of "Were You There?" The superb music direction is by Rahn Coleman. Colony Theatre Company, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Oct. 13. (818) 558-7000, colonytheatre.org. (Jenny Lower)
GO: THE BURNT PART BOYS
Elizabeth MercerAdam Dingeman and Daniel David Stewart
With a hardscrabble Appalachian setting and a score that engagingly echoes the melodies of Copland, Bernstein and Sondheim, this captivating 2010 musical (book by Mariana Elder, music by Chris Miller, and lyrics by Nathan Tysen) is both a sensitive meditation on grief and a heartfelt coming-of-age tale. Ten years after their dads perished in an accident at an isolated mine, a group of teenagers embark on a pilgrimage to visit the spot. Along the way, they are forced to confront their own mortality, their memories of their family and their goals for the future. Director Richard Israel's intimate and beautifully atmospheric production crackles with youthful energy, and, as the characters embark on their rural journey, the piece takes on the feel of a ghost story of loss and redemption. Under Gregory Nabours' crisp musical direction, the bluegrassy songs are executed with heart and gusto. The ensemble is populated by a cast of mostly young performers with unexpectedly subtle vocal chops and strong emotional range. A powerful turn is offered by Daniel David Stewart as Pete, the angry teen whose impulsive actions force his older brother (an equally powerful Aaron Scheff) to pursue him into the wild. Third Street Theatre, 8115 W. Third St., Beverly Grove; Fri.- Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Oct. 20. (323) 655-9232, thirdstreettheatre.com. (Paul Birchall)
PICK OF THE WEEK: DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?
Jessica Sherman PhotgraphyEric Curtis Johnson in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? at Sacred Fools Theatre
Any adaptation of a novel is a compromise of approximation whose objective should be to faithfully capture the spirit and ideas of the prose in a dramatically compelling way. Which is why Philip K. Dick fans, who have repeatedly suffered the indignity of having their favorite sci-fi author plundered by dumbed-down Hollywood blockbusters, will cheer adapter Edward Einhorn's 2010, high-fidelity transliteration of Dick's wryly ironic, psychedelic, 1968 hall of mirrors. The time is a war-ravaged future in which the question of what it means to be human has been vastly complicated by a band of renegade androids passing themselves off as flesh-and-blood (it's the source material for Blade Runner). Freelance assassin Rick Deckard (Eric Curtis Johnson), a man who relies on a mood device to feel anything at all, is charged with weeding the imposters from the populace via administering "empathy tests" and summary execution. Suffice it to say that nothing is what it seems. Jaime Robledo's inventively cinematic staging (on DeAnne Millais' computer-detritus set) and an unusually fine ensemble (including Lynn Odell, Corey Klemow, Marz Richards and Rafael Goldstein) capture all the nuanced terms of Dick's allegory. But the real discovery of the evening is Kimberly Atkinson and her subtly delineated dual turn as the doppelgangers Rachael Rosen and Pris Stratton. Sacred Fools Theatre, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, E. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., through Oct. 19. (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org (Bill Raden)
THE DREAM OF THE BURNING BOY
McCarthy Photo StudioJeff Hangenga and Jayne McLendon
It's to scenic designer Erin Walley's credit that she festoons the guidance counselor's office at the high school where David West Read's play is set with a poster that reads, "Face Your Problems, Don't Facebook Them!!" In the wake of the sudden death of popular student Dane (Matthias Chrans), the decoration's tone perfectly captures not only the characters' reaction to Dane's passing--slightly flip with an underlying sincerity--but also what each of them must ultimately do. This starts with Dane's English teacher Larry (Jeff Hayenga), who was the last to speak with him, and includes Dane's sister Rachel (a manically intense Jayne McLendon), his girlfriend Chelsea (Joslyn Kramer), his friend Kyle (Zach Palmer), and his mother Andrea (a scene-stealing Melissa Kite). As the characters come to terms with the tragedy, the hidden ways in which they are connected slowly come to light, nudged along by Steve (Tyler Ritter), the young guidance counselor who was Larry's student not so long ago. Director Edward Edwards deftly balances the comedy and tragedy in the piece, playing its emotional intensity palpably and engagingly.Hayenga and Ritter play well off each other with an odd-couple vibe,and Palmer's high school boyishness is eminently believable. But while cast and director give it their all, the script, despite clever jokes and a tonally spot-on rendition of the high school experience, feels thin, with a number of storylines and characters that could stand to be fleshed out and further explored. Malibu Playhouse, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Oct. 13.(310) 589-1998, malibuplayhouse.org (Mayank Keshaviah)
THE END OF IT
Michael LamontWendy Radford and Ferrell Marshall
Breaking up is hard to do, particularly if you're embedded in a 20-year marriage. That's the not terribly surprising message of Paul Coates' play, illustrated by three couples: one straight (Kelly Coffield Park and playwright Coates), one gay (David Youse and William Franklin Barker) and one lesbian (Ferrell Marshall and Wendy Radford). The three couples appear sometimes separately, sometimes simultaneously, suggesting that they are almost interchangeable as they deal with such issues as anger, grief, blame, resentment, loss of desire, fear of aging and abandonment. Coates' script is intelligent, perceptive and sometimes funny, but almost fatally restrained. Only Park is given the opportunity to tap into the raw emotions inherent in the situation. Director Nick DeGruccio marshals his fine actors through a nearly impeccable production, on François-Pierre Couture's blandly elegant set, but no amount of direction can provide the excitement the text fails to supply. End L.A. and Scott Disharoon at Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Fairfax; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through Oct. 20. (323) 960-4418, plays411.com/theend. (Neal Weaver)
GO: PROMETHEUS BOUND
Craig SchwartzRon Cephus and Mirjana Jokovic
A new production of the classic Greek tragedy by the CalArts Center for New Performance. The set features the use of a twenty-three-foot, five-ton revolving metal wheel, to which the protagonist, Prometheus, is permanently bound. Mondays, Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Sept. 28. Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, 310-440-7300, www.getty.edu. See theater feature.
GO: TONE CLUSTERS
Chris SibleyKatherine James and Alan Blumenfeld
As a storyteller, Joyce Carol Oates frequently traverses aberrant corridors of the human psyche. That's readily apparent in this 1990 (since updated to 2003) one-act, about a middle-aged couple, Frank and Emily Gulick (Alan Blumenfeld and Katherine James), whose son has been accused of the brutal rape and murder of a 14-year-old neighbor. The couple's nightmare compounds a thousandfold as they are interviewed live on TV and interrogated about an event too horrendous for them to accept. They're bombarded with questions as they squirm, deny basic facts and search desperately within themselves for an alternative explanation for the obvious. Some of the queries mimic the sensationalized reporting of tabloid TV, while others are stultifyingly theoretical and pedantic and humiliatingly above their heads. Oates intended the piece as a cacophonous expression of a society out of sync with humanity rather than a realistic portrait of two tormented people, but the production's strength is in fact the wonderful craftsmanship of both performers (James is particularly spot-on), and the nuanced complexity of the emotions they depict. As the offstage inquisitor, Jeff Wiesen's voice sounded canned rather than live, perhaps an effort by director Mike Peebler to conform to Oates' original concept. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Thurs., Sept. 19 & 26, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 12, 8 p.m. (310) 455-3723, theatricum.com. (Deborah Klugman)
WHAT KIND OF GOD?
A life spent immersed in Catholic school and culture erupts into crippling disillusionment for 17-year-old Aaron (Brett Donaldson) when he can no longer deny his homosexuality. Unable to cope, and wracked with doubts about the faith and his calling to the priesthood, he turns to his mentor, Father Bart (Robert Keasler), who reveals that he is gay. As it turns out, the loathsome Bishop Michael (playwright Steve Julian) has returned to the parish where ghosts of his past sexual predations lurk, and has picked Father Bart to chair a committee looking into sexual abuse. The resultant events inexorably expose secrets and unravel the lives of those involved. This could have been an engaging drama about a topical subject had Julian gone beyond the superficial. Offered instead is an unwieldy, melodramatic tale about homosexuality in the priesthood, teen sexuality, family bonds and the underbelly of church life and politics, which is neither surprising nor of much interest. Aaron's progressive, shrill meltdown approaches parody after a while, and cast performances are only satisfactory under Aaron Lyons' direction. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Oct. 20. (323) 960-7787, whatkindofgodtheplay.com. (Lovell Estell III)
ONGOING SHOWS REGION-WIDE
Adults, Keep Out: A Merry Musical for Adults Only
: This musical comedy by Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo (with music by Matthew Wrather) comes with its own warning, right in the title -- and, unfortunately, discerning theatergoers would be well advised to heed the admonition. The show purports to take place in a land of make-believe, where several kids embark on a quest to an enchanted lake of wisdom. The issues here are not related to the execution -- DeCarlo's staging is lively and spirited, while the unusually likable ensemble of extremely fresh-faced and appealing young performers assay their parts with enthusiasm and genuine vocal talent. However, the play itself, a schematic and derivative fantasy tale couched in flatfooted dialogue and tinny musical numbers, is disappointing. The message of Rudie's play -- that young folks grow out of their childlike imaginative worlds -- is by no means dismissable, but the clunkiness of the writing never allows the piece to succeed as either a genuine children's myth or an ironic adult tale. (Paul Birchall). Saturdays, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29. The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, 310-394-9779, www.santamonicaplayhouse.com.
: Eugene O'Neill's idyllic American comedy, about a young man, his young love, and his coming-of-age. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles, 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.
: Writer-director Steve Sajich's play consists of four tenuously interrelated scenes, centering on the murder of a hooker. For reasons best known to Sajich, the four scenes are juggled in performance, with the audience deciding what their order will be. But this seems like a mere gimmick, designed to keep us from realizing just how thin and unsubstantial the play is. Two of the scenes, involving a randy, unfaithful husband (Frank Noon), his jealous and frustrated wife (Kate Kelly) and a prostitute (Angela Stern) carry the plot. The other two peripheral scenes concern a father-son team of thieves (John J. Malone and Jack David Frank) who discover the murdered woman's body but can't report it lest it reveal their crime, and a couple of police detectives (Ben Sharples and Deanna Watkins) on a stakeout as part of the murder investigation. The actors acquit themselves well but can't overcome inept dramaturgy. (Neal Weaver). Fri., Sept. 20, 8 p.m. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, 626-441-5977, www.fremontcentretheatre.com.
Awake and Sing
: Clifford Odets' drama, set in 1930s Bronx, about the Berger family's first generation clashing with the younger generation's desire for independence and freedom. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-700-4878, www.thegrouprep.com.
: A Los Angeles revival of Jon Hartmere's pop opera about a Catholic school relationship between two roommates, Jason and Peter. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 22. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.
: The Bells of West 87th
: Elin Hampton's play derives its comedy from the antics of an eccentric family. At 39, Molly (Cameron Meyer) has never escaped from the tyranny of her critical, exploitative parents, who have decided she's a lesbian because she won't wear makeup, and taunt her about her lack of a social life. Dad Eli (Robert Towers) is an elderly leprechaun obsessed with performing magic tricks and keeping the world informed of the state of his prostate. Domineering Mom Ida (Carol Locatell) walked out on Eli five years ago, and moved in with Molly. Now Molly has acquired a beau, Chris (James Marsters), an amateur poet who works at a miniature golf course, and she brings him home to meet the family, with predictably messy results. Superficially, the piece resembles You Can't Take It with You
, but that play's sunny disposition is replaced by a more jaundiced view, as Molly strives to escape her tyrannical family. This is essentially sitcom stuff, but it's cleverly written and acted expertly by a solid ensemble, including Dagney Kerr as Molly's glamorous married sister. Director Richard Pierce keeps things moving briskly on the handsome, two-room set designed by Jeff McLaughlin. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 323-655-7679, www.greenwayarts.org.
: Bob Baker's It's a Musical World!
: Nearly three decades ago, this reviewer attended a production of The Nutcracker
with his daughter, and was surprised how thoroughly enjoyable this "children's show" was. Similarly, while It's a Musical World
reveals no surprises, the production at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater is a kick from start to finish, and there's even free ice cream after the performance. It's essentially a musical variety show staged in a large carpeted room with chandeliers, immense red curtains and lots of space for the kiddies to take a front-row seat. The musical selections are culled from country, pop, classical, R&B, rock and familiar musicals, and there's even a marionette from Azusa who sings an enchanting aria. Here is a universe of puppets of all shapes, sizes and artful imaginings. The costuming is an eye-catching panorama of colors and styles, and the puppeteers dazzle with their skills. On display are a troupe of clowns, some ice skaters outfitted in turn-of-the-century garb, a garrulous Eskimo, a burlesque chorus, a disco duet featuring "Turn the Beat Around" and a grand American finale performed with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Sept. 29, $15. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
Live Arts Exchange (LAX)
: Local artists perform interdisciplinary dance, theater, art, and music pieces. Visit liveartsexchange.org for a complete schedule of events. Through Sept. 22; Through Oct. 6, liveartsexchange.org. Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.org.
Breath and Imagination: The Story of Roland Hayes
: The story of Roland Hayes, the son of slaves, who grew up to be the first world-renowned African American classical singer. Written by Daniel Beaty. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.
: Neil Simon's autobiographical Pulitzer Prize-winning play about Eugene and his older brother Stanley, who are trying to break into the world of show business as professional comedy writers while coping with their parents' divorce. Starting Sept. 21, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, 562-944-9801, www.lamiradatheatre.com.
The Burnt Part Boys
: A coming-of-age musical about a group of teenagers in a West Virginia coal mining town, featuring an Appalachian-inspired score. Book by Mariana Elder, music by Chris Miller, lyrics by Nathan Tysen, directed by Richard Israel. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Third Street Theatre, 8115 W. Third St., Los Angeles, 323-655-9232.
: Dancing on the Edge
: Presented on Zombie Joe's Underground's tiny, bare stage, Dancing on the Edge
borrows from the company's long-running spectacle of disgustingly funny horror tableaux, Urban Death
, in that it consists of almost two dozen dancelets, all in under an hour. And though one ballerina gets shot in the stomach midleap, such glibness is tempered by a more mature investment in themes ranging from despondency -- "Hurt," choreographed by Carrie Nedrow and performed with spasmic rigor by JJ Dubon -- to jealousy to redemption. The recorded musical selections range from Nine Inch Nails to Debussy. The dancing styles are all over the map, from ballet to hip-hop, and the execution by the dancers is superb. (Steven Leigh Morris). Saturdays, 11 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 21. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Death of a Salesman
: Arthur Miller's 1949 play about father and salesman Willy Loman, and his struggle to hold on to the American dream. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
: An adaptation of Philip K. Dick's 1968 science-noir totem about the bounty hunter Rick Deckard and his task of hunting down rogue androids. Written by Edward Einhorn, directed by Jaime Robledo. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 19, bit.ly/ElectricSheepLATix. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
The Dream of the Burning Boy
: A mystery unfolds when Dane, a popular high school students, dies unexpectedly following a meeting with his English teacher. Written by David West Read. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Malibu Playhouse, 29243 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, 310-589-1998, www.malibuplayhouse.org.
The End Of It
: A new play by Paul Coates, about three couples who simultaneously confront the possible dissolution of their twenty-year relationships. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-1445, www.matrixtheatre.com.
Fool For Love
: Sam Shepard's drama about Eddie, a rodeo stuntman, and May, his lost love, whom he has found living at a motel in the Mojave Desert. Directed by Gloria Gifford. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-205-1680.
Frank and Ava
: It's hard to imagine at this late date what new light a stage play could shed on the tumultuous, six-year, 1950s tabloid marriage of Hollywood icons Frank Sinatra (Rico Simonini) and Ava Gardner (Stefany Northcutt). And if playwright Willard Manus' two-character drama is any indication, the answer turns out to be very little. That's not to say that Manus' straightforward biographical survey isn't thorough in its chronicle of the pair's fierce ambitions, insecurities and appetites for both alcohol and marital infidelity, or what inevitably happens when that combustive combination is subjected to the unforgiving accelerant of wealth and celebrity. To that end, Simonini (who bears a passable physical resemblance to a 40-something Sinatra) and Northcutt capably trace the eventful outlines of the story, but neither Manus nor director Kelly Galindo's staging ultimately convinces in illuminating the mysterious charisma of the evidently rather venial couple or why we still care. (Bill Raden). Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29, hollywoodfringe.org/projects/1371. Three Clubs Cocktail Lounge, 1123 Vine St., Los Angeles, 323-462-6441, www.threeclubs.com.
Gallery Secrets: 4 Plays, 4 Exhibit Halls, 4 Time Periods
: Four short plays by four Los Angeles playwrights, performed after hours at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County: 1913: A Vast Hoard
, written by Tom Jacobson, performed in the Rotunda; 1929: Skins and Bones
, written by Ruth McKee, performed in the African Mammal Hall; 1978: Under the Glass
, written by Zakiyyah Alexander, performed in the Gem and Mineral Hall; 2013: Prom Season
, written by Boni B. Alvarez, performed in the Dinosaur Hall. A production of Chalk Repertory Theatre in conjunction with the Natural History Museum of L.A. County's 100th Anniversary. Sat., Sept. 21, 7 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 7 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 27, 7 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 7 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 7 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 7 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 11, 7 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 13, 7 p.m. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-763-3466, www.nhm.org.
: A new production of the classic Greek tragedy by The CalArts Center for New Performance. The set features the use of a twenty-three foot, five ton revolving metal wheel, to which the protagonist, Prometheus, is permanently bound. Mondays, Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Sept. 28. Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, 310-440-7300, www.getty.edu.
: An all-female production of Hamlet
-- why?! The gender-bending (and multicultural) casting permits this motley cast of women to tackle the tragedy's meaty classic roles but adds nothing to the production. Rather, it distracts and detracts. Lisa Wolpe and Natsuko Ohama co-direct and star (as Hamlet and Polonius, respectively) in a lively rendition that gallops toward its (implied) bloody finale. Yet this tragedy could have used a firmer hand on the reins. Some perfs are good, others woeful. Emphatic gestures and shouted delivery, as well as the random sound design, rob the text of its subtleties, making this Hamlet for Dummies
. Wolpe's interpretation of the gloomy Dane is bitter, sarcastic, playful and energetic as she roughs up both Ophelia and Gertrude in tempestuous scenes. Unfortunately, Wolpe also sometimes rushes her delivery of the scintillating text. Ophelia (Chastity Dotson) is excellent in her descent from confusion into insanity, while the majestic set of faux stone, with its trapdoor for the grave scene, is superb, including its upstairs realm for the lumbering, un-wraithlike ghost of Old King Hamlet (Elizabeth Swain). The swordplay is excellent; the rest is -- silence. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 26, 8 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 2, 8 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 10, 8 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 16, 8 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 24, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
: Lorenzo Pisoni's tender homage to his circus ringleader father, the art and the discipline of comedy, and the magic of the circus. Starting Sept. 21, Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772.
In My Corner
: The theme of fathers and sons occupies well-trodden ground in the theater, but Joe Orrach's exploration of his relationship with his Puerto Rican father is unique in its presentation. Having been a professional boxer and tap dancer, Mr. Orrach is hardly an average Joe, and he and co-writer Lizbeth Hasse infuse this solo show with elements of his former lives, cleverly employing choreography, a jump rope and a speed bag in the storytelling ... not to mention a live jazz trio. Headed by nimble pianist and musical director Matthew Clark, the musicians provide a rich rhythmic and melodic undercurrent to the show, with a sound that's at times reminiscent of another Bay Area jazz virtuoso, Vince Guaraldi. Director Jeremiah Chechik helps Orrach combine the storytelling with the physicality of the show (such as using the speed bag as a dance partner) and, with lighting designer Briana Pattillo, creates some solid visuals onstage (especially the boxing ring). However, this former pugilist doesn't land as many punches as he ought to; despite his fascinating source material, the show meanders between episodes, lacking a strong enough dramatic throughline to build emotional momentum. Also, other than his father's character, none of the rest of Orrach's family is as well developed in the piece. Still, with some reworking, Orrach and Hasse could potentially turn Joe's multifaceted life experience and talents into a knockout of a show. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
: In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play
: In Sarah Ruhl's smart and pointed satire In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play
, it's not just middle-class Victorian women who are sexually clueless: it's their men as well. The time is the 1880s, and man of science Dr. Givings (Michael Oosterom) is using a primitive electronic vibrator to treat "hysterical" female patients, who depart reinvigorated and refreshed while his own unhappy wife, Catherine (Joanna Strapp), eavesdrops enviously in the adjoining room. Eventually Catherine summons the courage to surreptitiously invade her husband's office and discover for herself the pleasurable side effects of this pioneering modality. Directed by August Viverito, the play successfully extends well beyond burlesque, sporting shades of Ibsen while focusing on the struggles between the sexes, along with the loneliness, boredom and frustration of traditionally obedient women's lives. At first this production's opening-night presentation seemed stagey and less than ideally crisp, but it gathered steam as the performers grew limber and confident and immersed themselves in the story. Some of the most hilarious moments arise around Yael Berkovich's portrayal of Mrs. Daldry, a formerly weepy neurotic whose vocal responses to the doctor's treatment soar to operatic realms. By contrast, the play's most moving highlights are embodied in Candace Nicholas-Lippman's fine rendering of Elizabeth, the African-American wet nurse hired to breastfeed Catherine's baby when Catherine's own milk stops flowing. An honest working woman mourning the death of her own infant, she hasn't the luxury of the antics of the spoiled upper classes. It is she who enlightens the other ladies about the true nature of the sensations they are experiencing for the first time. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Sept. 28. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 877-620-7673, www.secretrose.com.
Ise Lyfe: Pistols & Prayers
: A spoken word hip-hop theater piece, written and performed by artist and educator Ise Lyfe of HBO's Def Poetry Jam. The production is a sociopolitical commentary, blended with a glimpse into Lyfe's coming of age as a man, artist, and advocate for social change. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 27. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 323-655-7679, www.greenwayarts.org.
: Although the wow factor is missing, aficionados of John Lennon probably will appreciate this tribute to the iconic musician, which juxtaposes renditions of his most famous songs with a narrative of his life. Lennon impersonator and lead singer Tim Piper addresses the audience in a confiding manner as he relates events in Lennon's life -- his troubled boyhood in Liverpool culminating in the death of his mother, up through The Beatles, his marriage to Yoko Ono and his transformation into a family man and spokesman for the counterculture antiwar movement. There are no surprises in writer-director Steve Altman's script, and watching and listening to Piper, an American donning a Liverpool accent, failed to persuade me that I was hearing the real McCoy. That said, Piper's backup band, Working Class Hero, performs well and provides an opportunity for those who wish to reimagine the legend to do so. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 29. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.
: Zombie Joe directs Vanessa Cate in her one-woman theatrical odyssey, conquering her darkest fears, challenges, and limitations with her spirit of truth and triumph. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
: A romantic comedy-drama, written by Bathsheba Doran and directed by Jules Aaron, about the relationship between a Columbia poetry professor and a personal trainer from Ireland. Starting Sept. 26, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.
Klepto-MANIA: A Night of Time-Travel, Bullfighting, and Love
: Opening this bill of one-acts is Samantha Macher's "Brechtian comedy," The Arctic Circle *and a Recipe for Swedish Pancakes
. Unfortunately, it's a dreadfully unwieldy affair parceled out in 28- plus scenes that chronicle the amorous life and exploits of Elin (Katie Apicella). Narrated by Amy Scribner, it constantly shifts back and forth in time and place, which makes for a theatrical experience that quickly goes from annoying to mind numbing. There are way too many scenes that are nothing more than trifles, and McKerrin Kelly's direction is consistently labored. If there is any redemption, it's in the acting, which isn't bad. Robert Plowman's The Matador
manages to be entertaining, in spite of hanging around too long. Directed by Todd Ristau, and spiced with an engaging pinch of camp, it tells the story of a much heralded matador (played with ticklish panache by Mark Ostrander) who gets more than he can handle when he encounters an unusual bull (choreographer Susanna Young) and an admiring female (Emma Sperka). Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Sept. 22. (Lovell Estell III). Tickets & info: www.kleptotheatreworkshop.com
. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 22. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.com.
L.A. Theatre Works: Reasons To Be Pretty
: Thomas Sadoski reprises his Tony-nominated role in Neil LaBute's drama about the modern obsession with physical beauty. The lives of two couples are disrupted when Greg's offhand remark that his girlfriend is not pretty gets back to her. Performed radio theater-style. Fri., Sept. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 21, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 4 p.m. James Bridges Theater, 1409 Melnitz Hall, Westwood, 310-206-8365.
: A New York actress disrupts the peace among a former prima ballerina teetering on the edge, her damaged son, and a mother with her own agenda. Written by Marthe Rachel Gold, directed by John Frank Levey. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 9. NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., Los Angeles.
The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later
: A project that investigates how the town of Laramie, Wyoming has been affected by the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard and the media frenzy that followed. Written by Moisés Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Andy Paris and Stephen Belber, and directed by Ken Sawyer. Presented by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 16. Davidson Valentini Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Los Angeles, 323-860-7300, www.lagaycenter.org.
Light in the Darkness
: Adapter and director Ramon Monxi Flores weaves Mayan mythology into this otherwise predictable message drama about a gangbanger and his uncertain journey toward redemption. Originating from a 1992 script by Victor Tamayo, which focused primarily on drug abuse, the familiar plot revolves around Carlos (Johnny Ortiz), a parentless youth living an empty, violent existence. Street life and drug dealing leave him little time for his girlfriend, Liz (Sara Aceves); that changes when she becomes pregnant and opts, to his dismay, for an abortion. Under Flores' direction, lighting (Sohail Najafi), sound (Andrew Graves) and set design (Marco Deleon) easily eclipse both the boilerplate dialogue and the nonprofessional performances. (Exceptions include Joshua Duron as a twitchy addict, Wali Habib as a shooting victim and Xolo Mariduena as Carlos' younger self.) The production's most striking element is Victor Yerba's fabulous Maya dancing; it, along with other production elements, ties the narrative to an ancient means of salvation. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29. Casa 0101, 2102 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, 323-263-7684, www.casa0101.org.
Lily Ann's LOVE YOU!
: Some shows somehow succeed in being fun or entertaining in spite of an overload of faults. Such is the case -- sort of -- with this cabaret- style musical comedy by Beyonde Productions, with book, music and lyrics by Lily Ann. Brimming with groan-inducing shtick, it takes place in a Hollywood nightclub owned by Nicolas Caged (Austin Springer), a red-bedizened Elvis impersonator, whose singing and cache of antics are bad in a laughable sort of way. The star of the evening is the ultra-sexy Mary Lynn (Yvette Nii), who does sing a bit better, and whose desperately stretched sequined dresses garner sympathy from the audience. Mary Lynn is being courted by the "other" Elvis impersonator, Charles Love (Jamie Lane) and country-boy hunk Toby Kiss (Jesse Welch, who actually can sing). In addition to a slew of mediocre songs and music, the evening includes a return-to-the-'60s dance routine, some nifty conga playing by Bob Hardly (Jah-Amen Mobley) and a cheeky murder mystery. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 12. The Black Box Theater, 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-979-7078.
Little Shop of Horrors
: A comedy-horror rock opera based on the 1960 movie. Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 19. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., Los Angeles, 310-645-5156, www.kentwoodplayers.org.
: Award-winning playwright John Pollono's new drama about a working class couple, struggling to redefine family. When their seventeen-year-old daughter goes missing during a winter blizzard, former high school lovers are forced to confront their tragic history. Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m.; Mon., Oct. 28, 8 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 4, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 14. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.
Marilyn ... MADNESS & Me
: A tale of unrequited love, focused on the last month's of Marilyn Monroe's life as told in first-person by the man who lived it, and confirmed by excerpts from Marilyn's diary. Written by Frank V. Furino, from an original concept by Didier Bloch. Starting Sept. 26, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com.
: Merlin: The Untold Adventures
: Begat of a demon, gifted with second sight and shape-shifting powers, the druid Merlin provides much of the momentum of the Arthurian legend. In the process of retelling the fabled wizard's backstory, playwright-director Ellen Geer has concocted a high fantasy with a strong antiwar flavor. The work's emphasis on meshing threads of pagan philosophy and Christian references -- with a side trip to mythical Atlantis thrown in for good measure -- can cause matters to become a little thematically and dramatically muddled. Yet Geer's brisk and buoyant direction makes excellent use of her atmospheric venue, incorporating a moody electronic ambiance alongside some elegant pageantry, thoughtful fight choreography and enchanting choral interludes. Lead Melora Marshall at times overplays her Merlin with a borderline cartoonish physicality, but it is a performance overall grounded in the epic earnestness and warm humor of Geer's text. (Mindy Farabee). Fri., Sept. 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m., $25-$35. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, theatricum.com
A Midsummer Night's Dream
: Shakespeare's classic summer tale about foolish humans, blind love, and the magic of the forest. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 27, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29. Studio Theatre at Cal Poly Pomona, 3801 W. Temple Ave., Building 25, Pomona, 909-869-3900.
: A Midsummer Night's Dream
: As Bottom, performer Katherine Griffith may be the best reason to see this amusing but somewhat quotidian presentation of Shakespeare's seasonal classic. Cast across gender by directors Melora Marshall and Willow Geer, Griffith's likable blowhard garners a plurality of the laughs, along with his proletarian colleagues, whose presentation of Pyramus and Thisby before Theseus' court is this production's comic highlight. By contrast, the antics of Shakespeare's quartet of quarrelsome lovers, which includes Geer as a peevish Helena, are mostly played by-the-numbers and lack a fresh edge. As Titania, Marshall exudes a mercurial flamboyance and a capricious sense of entitlement that has one rooting, ever so momentarily, for Oberon (an attention-commanding Michael McFall). Though I invariably shun the word "adorable," I have no other description for months-old Wren Scaturro, who appears as the changeling child, taking her bow with the rest of the ensemble with faint, smiling aplomb. The charm of an outdoor proscenium and the added enhancement of designer Katherine Crawford's costumes, especially for Titania, Oberon and Puck (cross-gender cast Sabrina Frame) help simulate the requisite magic. (Deborah Klugman). Sun., Sept. 22, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 8 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, theatricum.com
The New Situation
: In playwright-director Carlo Allen's comedy, when schoolteacher Francisco (Joshua M. Bott) gets pink-slipped, he and his agoraphobic sister, Antonia (Susan M. Flynn), are forced to take out a Craigslist ad looking for boarders. Fortunately, their new lodgers -- gay, middle-aged museum docent Constantine (Jordan Preston) and womanizing restaurant manager Rudy (author Allen) -- join the siblings to become a close-knit family unit. They all celebrate their friendship by going off to get colonoscopies. And that's the play. Allen is to be commended for crafting a comedy whose characters face issues of reaching middle age. Sadly, though, the play is a dramatically maladroit work -- and the halting line readings, unfocused blocking and weird pacing jags of Allen's staging benefit the piece little. Although Flynn's comic timing provides a few moments of artistic craftsmanship, the plodding writing and other cast members' onstage awkwardness doom the piece. (Paul Birchall). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 20, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 27, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 28. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, 310-656-8070, www.promenadeplayhouse.com.
The Normal Heart
: A revival of Larry Kramer's iconic American play about a nation in denial during the AIDS crisis. Starting Sept. 21, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 24. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.
: The Old Settler
: John Henry Redwood's bittersweet romantic comedy The Old Settler
is set in 1943 Harlem in the comfy home (a handsome set by Thomas Brown) of middle-aged sisters Elizabeth (Ruby Hinds) and Quilly (Jolie Oliver). Elizabeth is dignified and restrained, while her sister is outspoken and nit-picky. These church-going ladies are often like oil and water, but there's an unmistakable sisterly love and devotion that underpins the acrimony. Their bond is tested when Elizabeth decides to take in as a renter the handsome, ultra-countrified Husband Witherspoon (John R. Davidson). He's come up from the South looking for his sweetheart, Lou Bessie (played with sass and attitude by Crystal Garrett), who is only interested in a good time and the man's money. It isn't long before Husband and Elizabeth are tenderly eyeing one another. The story of a May-December romance is an old one, but it receives a charming and inventive treatment by Redwood, and also offers a sobering glimpse into the pre-civil rights-era African-American experience. The outcome is predictable, but this doesn't detract from what is a thoroughly enjoyable production with emotionally vibrant performances under the direction of William Stanford Davis. (Lovell Estell III). Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-204-4440, www.picoplayhouse.com.
: An audacious real estate salesman needs to sell an overpriced house during an off season. Enter a seductive, mysterious woman new to California who senses that something wrong has happened in the house, in writer Shem Bitterman's third dramatic production at the Skylight Theater. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-08-01/stage/shem-bitterman-open-house/full/
. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Sept. 22. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, 323-666-2202.
: A comedic musical by Adam Gwon, directed by Angel Creeks. Four young New Yorkers' lives intersect as they search for fulfillment, happiness, love and cabs. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, 818-841-4404, www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org.
: The story of two German Jewish sisters, Selma and Jenny, who in 1995 return to their home in Paris after a trip to the German city of their youth and try to investigate the swirl of emotions, opinions and memories that surfaced during their trip. This play questions forgiveness, the work of memory, and the state of modern racism in the world. Written by Hélène Cixous, directed by Georges Bigot. Starting Sept. 21, Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-4264, www.theactorsgang.com.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
: William Shakespeare's adventurous tale of Pericles, King Antiochus, and Dionyza, the King's daughter. Directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-09-12/stage/miss-julie-dream-project-pericles/full/
. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 21, 2 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 2 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 11, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 12, 2 & 8 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 30, 8 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 24, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 28. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.
Pieces (of ass)
: A series of original "Pieces," delivered by a cast of twelve of the country's most dynamic and beautiful performers, exploring what defines an attractive woman, from the perks and privileges to the problems and pressures. Fri., Sept. 20, 11 p.m. Beacher's Madhouse at The Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-785-3036, www.thompsonhotels.com.
: Point Break Live!
: Creating a raucous, rocked-out party atmosphere by blasting preshow music (think "Welcome to the Jungle" at ear-splitting volume), the hilarious spoof show Point Break Live!
offers super-soaked excitement in a grungy Hollywood nightclub setting. What do we mean by "soaked"? Let's just say you'd be wise to take them up on the $2 ponchos for sale before the show. The low-tech, seat-of-the-pants, interactive presentation of an abbreviated version of Kathryn Bigelow's slightly corny 1991 cop surf drama is further camped up by a fun-loving cast. The actor playing the central role of Johnny Utah -- memorably portrayed onscreen by Keanu Reeves in his "Woah, dude" stoner phase -- is recruited from among the dozen or so audience members who audition on the spot and are rated by the audience. The rookie performer then goes on to utter dialogue aided by cue cards. (Too bad opening night's guy was virtually illiterate and inexplicably prone to channeling Forrest Gump.) Utah's volatile detective partner, Pappas, is well played by Tom Fugedi, though he would benefit from a bit more crazy Gary Busey and a bit less Chris Farley in his performance. Tobias Jelinek is excellent as the bizarrely spiritual crime boss/surfer guru Bodhi. The plastic ponchos offer protection from the barrage of water spray, blood splatters and -- uh -- other bodily fluids. Stupid fun. Booze available. (Pauline Adamek). Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-466-6111, www.thedragonfly.com.
: Winner of the 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival's "Best Fringe Festival Musical Award," this original satire follows the first journey of Ash, Misty, Brock, Pikachu and the rest of the crew from the original games as they traverse Kanto, this time with added song and dance. Book and Lyrics by Alex Syiek. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 11:59 p.m. Continues through Sept. 28. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
: A new production of Shakespeare's Richard II
, conceived, adapted and directed by Jessica Kubzansky to be bare and raw, performed by only three actors. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 2, 8 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 9, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626-683-6883, www.bostoncourt.com.
: 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 Sept. 29. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
Rapture, Blister, Burn
: The West Coast premiere of this new comedy, in which feminism's foibles are challenged among three generations of women. The ladies share their raucous and refreshing approaches to navigating work, love and family. Written by Gina Gionfriddo, directed by Peter DuBois. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-08-29/stage/rapture-blister-burn-feminism/full/
. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 22. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
: Rebecca's Gamble
: Issues of science, medical ethics and criminal law propel Art Shulman and Robert Begam's provocative courtroom drama. Director Rick Walters has transformed this small venue into a courtroom interior surrounded by audience members, some of whom render a verdict at play's end. The site-specific setting is used to good effect. The accused, Dr. Rebecca Adler (Diane Linder), is charged with murder for her part in the cryonic disposal of her terminally ill patient. Counsel for the defense is Joe Purcell (Randy Vasquez), while the state is represented by Scott Novak (Jerry Weil), with Judge Dale Fox (Henry Holden) presiding. The format follows the procedures of a real court proceeding: Witnesses are called, testimony is given, cross-examination is allowed and a verdict is rendered. There are even a number of emotional outbursts, which are a bit overworked. The compelling thing about this thoughtfully written script is that it explores in detail some topical scientific, ethical and legal subjects that are easily grasped. Cast performances, on balance, are quite good, notwithstanding a few glaring instances of botched lines. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 6. Theatrecraft Playhouse, 7505 1/2 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-876-1100.
REDCAT's Radar L.A. Festival
: An international festival of contemporary theater. REDCAT gathers the some of the most influential theater companies from around the globe to perform alongside innovative Los Angeles artists. Visionary works of theater from Latin America, the Pacific Rim, and Los Angeles in 18 productions performed in downtown's historic theaters and throughout the city. A professional symposium will highlight interdisciplinary approaches and new theatrical forms. REDCAT will be the late night festival hub with a line-up of DJs and informal performances. Visit redcat.org/festival/radar-la-festival-2013
for a complete schedule. Sept. 20-29, 8 p.m.; Oct. 1-6, www.redcat.org/festival/radar-la-festival-2013. REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.
Robert E. Lee: Shades of Gray
: A one-man dramatic portrait of one of U.S. history's most enigmatic figures. Written by and starring Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle Award-winner Tom Dugan. Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29. Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura, 805-667-2900.
: A new musical featuring the music of the great pianist Franz Liszt and others, written and performed by Hershey Felder and directed by Trevor Hay. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 26, 2 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.
: New light is shed on the man whose famous question "Can we all get along?" continues to resonate 21 years after it was first posed to a riot-torn Los Angeles in 1992. Created and performed by Roger Guenveur Smith. Sat., Sept. 21, 7 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 6:30 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 7 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 4 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 3, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 7 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 1 p.m. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
The Royal Family
: The work's the thing in George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's gentle 1927 spoof of the Barrymore dynasty, which forms the centerpiece of Theatricum Botanicum's 40th-anniversary season. The venerable, oak-nestled venue's own founding family fills in as the board-treading Cavendish clan. Artistic director Ellen Geer slings Downton Abbey
-worthy zingers as dowager Fanny, while sister Melora Marshall and daughter Willow Geer carry the torch as the next generations of theatrical luminaries. All three women nail the benign entitlement and cozy security that comes from knowing you're an institution, but the dated material may be more thrilling for its cast than the audience. More compelling than the distant Barrymores is the play's exploration of pursuing the creative life at the cost of domestic and personal stability. Director Susan Angelo wisely avoids interfering with her cast's marvelous instincts, but a tighter rein would keep us from sharing Marshall's bewilderment when the madcap pace proves too frenetic. (Jenny Lower). Sat., Sept. 21, 4 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 4 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, theatricum.com
Sheet Cake Sliding
: A black comedy about a self-made business executive who tries to mold his family to conform to his plans, only to find that his family is a creation as complex and dangerous as Frankenstein's monster. Written by Stacia Saint Owens, directed by Nicholas Newell. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 19. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com.
: A Short Stay at Carranor
: Anticipating a reunion with her married former childhood sweetheart, Irene (1955 Miss America and Barnaby Jones
actress Lee Meriwether) enlists daughter Shelby (Corinne Shor) to ferry her to the family's lakeside cabin, Carranor. The septuagenarian divorcee dreads Chet (Don Moss) will break off their budding emotional affair, while her righteous offspring bristles at a presumed seduction that could leave her mother bereft. Reality, it turns out, proffers a more complicated synthesis. Meriwether's performance offers the best reason to see this production: Her stately grace brings dignity to a portrayal that feels both effortless and fully realized. As her conflicted paramour, Moss has the tougher battle but achieves a remarkable degree of sympathy. The staging's major flaw is the unerringly wrong-footed Shelby, who alienates even her husband with her grating presence and relentless harping. Ultimately the hard-working but miscast Shor can't salvage the character from its structural problems: Shelby is supposed to be a dogmatic liberal, but her particular brand of rigidity plays as distinctly more red-state. Yet the narrative resists simplistic moralizing, and for a certain theatergoer may offer a refreshing take on life's final analysis. John Gallogly's direction trades the saccharine for the bittersweet, while Jeff Rack's cozy set complements the December courtship. (Jenny Lower). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
: Written and performed by Stephanie Satie. Decades after World War II, a group of women who survived the Holocaust as children meet in a group moderated by a therapist and begin to tell their stories for the first time. Based on true events. Directed by Anita Khanzadian. Starting Sept. 22, Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
Smokey Joe's Cafe
: This Tony Award-nominated and Grammy Award-winning tribute to legendary songwriters Leiber and Stoller is a song-and-dance celebration of thirty-nine of rock 'n' roll's greatest hits, from "Stand by Me" and "Fools Fall in Love," to "Jailhouse Rock," "Spanish Harlem," and "Yakety Yak." Book by Stephen Helper and Jack Viertel, music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Starting Sept. 24, Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.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.
: Like the titular Italian dessert, this compilation of three one-act comedies features three different flavors. In the solo piece "Booby Prize," writer-performer Lizzie Czerner brings a Tracey Ullman-like flamboyance to the tale of a woman cursed and blessed with a very buxom figure, which brings her both ridicule and lascivious short-term attention but no long-term relationships -- until she discovers that there's a place in the world for busty women with low self-esteem. Rebekah Walendzak directs. "Daddy Didn't Die, Did He?" is set at the funeral of a Southern patriarch, and features writer-actors Will Matthews and Casey Christensen playing a gaggle of predatory, mercenary characters, including the deceased's scatterbrained widow, his three competitive children, his Southern-belle housekeeper and a frantic funeral director. The actors juggle multiple roles with speed and versatility, aided by director Jeffrey Addiss. Another solo piece, Keaton Talmadge's "Define: dif-fer-ent," is about a straight woman who's thoroughly disconcerted to find herself attracted to a lesbian -- until she discovers that gay relations can be as disillusioning as straight ones. Talmadge (who inherited her first name from grandfather Buster Keaton) is a hip, skillful and attractive performer, ably shepherded by director Kelleia Sheerin. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 21, plays411.com/spumoni. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-0383, www.complexhollywood.com.
: Written and performed by Luis Alfaro and directed by Robert Egan, Alfaro faces his father's stroke and a flood of family memories with poignant clarity and gentle humor. Fri., Sept. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 21, 4 p.m.; Tue., Sept. 24, 8 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 26, 9 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 1 p.m.; Tue., Oct. 1, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 4, 9 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 4 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 7 p.m. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
Stand-Off at Hwy #37
: A staged reading of a new play by Vickie Ramirez, about political, environmental and spiritual convictions. Clashes erupt when plans to build a highway through a Native American reservation in upstate New York prompts protests and clashes between the protestors and law enforcement. Part of Native Voices' First Look Series: Plays In Progress. Thu., Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m. Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, 323-667-2000, www.theautry.org.
: Robert Harling's classic southern comedy-drama about Truvy's beauty parlor and the women who regularly gather there. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 6. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles, 213-625-7000, www.eastwestplayers.org.
Surviving Grace: Benefiting USAgainstAlzheimer's
: USAgainstAlzheimer's co-founder and comedy writer Trish Vradenburg has a star-studded cast perform a staged reading of her critically acclaimed play, Surviving Grace
. Fantastic cast includes Carol Burnett, Elliott Gould, Marilu Henner, Lou Gossett, Jr., Loni Anderson, Brian McNamara and Helen Reddy. Wed., Sept. 25, 6:30 p.m., survivinggrace.org/show/la. Warner Bros. Studios, 3400 W. Riverside Dr, Burbank, 877-492-8687, vipstudiotour.warnerbros.com.
: The Taming of the Shrew
: The slapstick, or batacchio
, which originated in the commedia dell'arte of 16th-century Italy, is a wooden device used to create a loud, smacking sound. So it seems fitting that in staging Shakespeare's contemporaneous tale of a headstrong woman who finally meets her match, director Ellen Geer plays its physical comedy to the hilt, incorporating slide whistles, drums and other noisemaking devices to punctuate the onstage pratfalls, fisticuffs and acrobatics. The choice is mostly effective, but it's Geer's vivacious staging of the battle between Katharina (a hilariously histrionic Willow Geer) and Petruchio (a charmingly macho Aaron Hendry) that makes the show. Their terrifically torrential tango is complemented by Petruchio's servant, Grumio (Melora Marshall), who delivers perfectly pitched Shakespearean asides and wordplay, showcasing both sides of the "wise fool." The remaining cast members, clad in Val Miller's gorgeous period costumes, admirably execute their roles as well. The play's conclusion, with its seeming support for the patriarchy (or is it to be merely taken as farce?) is a bit jarring. Nonetheless, this wonderful, sylvan hideaway, where 40 years ago its namesake founder created a haven for artists, retains its rustic charm and remains an excellent setting for a night of Shakespeare. (Mayank Keshaviah). Sat., Sept. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 3:30 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, theatricum.com
: A drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Joyce Carol Oates, about an ordinary husband and wife who find themselves trapped under nightmarish attention when their son is arrested as the alleged killer of a neighborhood girl. The playwright will be present on opening night for a panel discussion after the performance. Thu., Sept. 26, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 12, 8 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, theatricum.com
Twilight Zone Unscripted
: There is good reason for live improv's reputation as the high-wire balancing act of comedy. But even the Flying Wallendas can have an off night. And in the case of Impro Theatre's long-form send-up of Rod Serling's 1960s sci-fi anthology classic, "off" can prove very deadly indeed. Directed by Jo McGinley and Stephen Kearin, the Impro troupers (who on this evening included Lisa Fredrickson, Brian Michael Jones, Brian Lohmann, Nick Massouh, Michele Spears, Floyd VanBuskirk and director McGinley) ad-lib four half-hour episodes from audience suggestions, replete with spot-on riffs of the series' signature Serling monologues. MVPs VanBuskirk, Fredrickson and Lohman each managed to knock at least one of their teammates' uninspired curves high into the stands. In between, however, the proceedings were a pointed reminder of why the outer limits of an improvised sketch remains four minutes: In live comedy, laughless seconds can seem like dog years to an uncaptivated audience. (Bill Raden). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Sept. 29, falcontheatre.com/twilight_zone_unscripted.html. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank, 818-955-8101, www.falcontheatre.com.
Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam
: PlaywrightTrieu Tran recalls the harrowing journey he took from Vietnam to Canada to the United States, and his quest to find some place to belong. Written by Tran with Robert Egan and directed by Egan. Sat., Sept. 21, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 8 p.m.; Wed., Sept. 25, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 7 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 2, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 4 p.m. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
A View From the Bridge
: Many consider Arthur Miller's dramas moral tragedies, but you also can think of them as mysteries, as their narratives contain events whose true meaning only becomes clear at the end. Longshoreman Eddie (Vince Melocchi) is a salt-of-the-earth type who thinks he's doing a good deed when he lets a pair of his wife's distant cousins, both illegal immigrants from the old country, move in with his family. He soon has reason to rue this decision, though, as his lovely niece, Catherine (Lisa Cirincione), falls in love with the more handsome of the two cousins, Rodolpho (Jeff Lorch) -- and Eddie is destroyed by his own inexplicably over-the-top jealousy. This is a mostly powerful, admirably straightforward production by co-directors Marilyn Fox and Dana Jackson, which stumbles slightly during the clumsy, frenetically staged final sequence. The production is anchored by Melocchi's nicely gruff Eddie, whose turn suggests a character swept along by passions he lacks the articulacy to express. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Sept. 22. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
: A theater festival comprised of three "waves" of short plays over six weekends, centered on the theme "Go West." The plays will explore stories of the Westside and Southern California through the lens of history, neighborhood, culture, myths, and the entertainment industry. For a complete schedule and line up visit SantaMonicaRep.org. Sat., Sept. 21; Sun., Sept. 22; Sat., Sept. 28; Sun., Sept. 29; Fri., Oct. 4; Sun., Oct. 6; Sat., Oct. 12; Sun., Oct. 13, www.SantaMonicaRep.org. Church in Ocean Park, 235 Hill St., Santa Monica, 310-399-1631, www.churchop.org.
: A spooky play of supernatural tales, expertly told by country folk in an Irish pub setting. Written by Conor McPherson. Fri., Sept. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 21, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 8 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 2, 8 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 3, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 11, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 12, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 13, 2 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 17, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 19, 8 p.m. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.
What Kind of God?
: The world premiere of a new play by KPCC morning radio host Steve Julian, which explores the price paid by victims of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles.
The Wizard of Oz
: Follow the yellow brick road to the Pantages for this fun, timeless classic. This new production includes all the original songs plus new music by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Fri., Sept. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 21, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tue., Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tue., Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 3, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.hollywoodpantages.com.
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