Our critic Deborah Klugman found Tadeusz Slobodzianek's drama, about Polish complicity in the German Nazis' persecution of Polish Jews in the 1940s, and presented by Son of Semele Ensemble at Atwater Village Theatre, to be a model of stagecraft and emotional to watch. For all the lastest new theater reviews, see below.
: Written by Judith Thompson, this drama concerns a group home for troubled adolescents which opens in a quiet community that has little tolerance for its new residents. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 12, $10-$40. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.
Lonesome Traveler: A journey into American folk music from the 1920's to the 1960's, spanning the United States from the hills of Appalachia to the nightclubs of San Francisco. Written and directed by Rubicon's Artistic Director James O'Neil, with musical direction by Trevor Wheetman. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 27, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 19, $35-$59; students $30. Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura, 805-667-2900.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: A revival of the classic musical in which an 1850's pioneer in Oregon tries to marry off her brothers. Book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay. Lyrics, music, and new songs by Johnny Mercer, Gene De Paul, Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through May 5, $20-$70. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, 562-944-9801, www.lamiradatheatre.com.
Shades: Paula Caplan's drama starts out as a meaningful exploration of war's toll on the human body and spirit, but then ventures into predictable, watery melodrama. Jerry (Will MacMillan) is a tough but affable Jewish veteran of World War II who looks forward to retiring from his successful restaurant business. His son, Don (Jed Sura), is a proud Vietnam vet battling a lung infection and a nagging disillusionment with the government, while his sister, Val (Kim Chase), is a former anti-war protestor who cares for a paralyzed Vietnam vet (Toni Lewis) and struggles to understand the men in her life. These characters are fully likable, especially Jerry, but Caplan doesn't construct a consistently substantive and convincing link between them. It's a story told in frustrating starts and stops, now here, now there. Toward play's end, the action morphs into a protracted soap opera-style epic about Val's litany of contextually implausible and banal emotional hang-ups. Gary Lee Reed's stodgy direction doesn't help. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 5, $30; members $15; students, seniors, veterans $20; Thursdays $10 -$15. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.
Smokefall: Playwright Noah Haidle's hazy family apologue begins with a postcard-perfect household in the American heartland -- an apparently doting dad (Corey Brill); his dutiful and pregnant-with-twins wife (Heidi Dippold); her sweetly Alzheimered father (Orson Bean); and their devoted teen daughter, Beauty (Carmela Corbett). Then, via a sweepingly omniscient narrator in a mini-fedora (Leo Marks), Haidle explodes that view to reveal that Beauty actually drinks paint, eats dirt and is in her third year of a vow of silence; that dad is about to forever abandon his marriage and expanding brood; and that even the twin fetuses may be having second thoughts about their imminent birth. Embroidered with fanciful character conceits and mind-spinning narrative leaps, Haidle's coloring-book fantasy is ultimately style-heavy -- call it whimsical surrealism -- but substance-light. Director Anne Kauffman and her talented design team contribute polish and visual wit but finally cannot disguise the fact that this SCR/Goodman Theatre co-production plumbs the full dramatic depths of a greeting-card bromide. (Bill Raden). Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 27, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 2:30 p.m. Continues through April 29. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.
REDCAT presents Guillermo Calderon: Villa + Discurso: Two literary theater works from Chilean director Guillermo Calderón. Fri., April 26, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., April 27, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 7 p.m., $10-$20, www.redcat.org/event/guillermo-calderon. REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: There are several moments late in Alex Lyras' fascinating performance of Mike Daisey's controversial monologue when Lyras drops the mask of his nameless, first-person investigative narrator and directly pleads for the evening's truth claims as Alex Lyras, actor. The asides are as tantalizing as they are telling. Because experiencing Lyras and director Robert McCaskill's staging of Daisey's Michael Moore-esque mix of polemics and sardonic reportage is to feel weirdly double-distanced from the actuality of its subject -- the harshly impoverished working conditions of Apple's Chinese iPhone and iPad plants. Despite Lyras' persuasive delivery, the show never quite shakes the penumbra of question marks raised by Daisey's own admitted fabrications of his reporting trip to China (said material since excised). The force of each incendiary revelation and Tim Arnold's accompanying photojournalistic video projections somehow feels diminished unaccompanied by a fact-checking footnote that goes beyond the piece's now bitterly ironic emotive linchpin, Lyras as Daisey declaring, "Trust me! I was there." (Bill Raden). Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 5, 800-838-3006, agonyecstasy.brownpapertickets.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
The Anatomy of Gazellas: In this drama, a mysterious teen arrives at a transitional house for young women run by a charismatic evangelical leader and develops her own plan for salvation. Written by Janine Salinas Schoenberg and directed by Playwrights' Arena Founder and Artistic Director Jon Lawrence Rivera. Starting April 27, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 19, $25. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.
The Assistants: Hunter Thompson described the TV business as a "cruel and shallow money trench ... a plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs." Unfortunately, the sting -- and truth -- of this gloriously unflattering assessment isn't discernible in Joel Sinensky's comedy about the sordid inner workings of television land. Reality TV show host Ted Hartford's (Micah Cohen) privileged world unravels when a contestant kills herself on the show. What's worse, ambitious assistant Tori (Jessica Botello) and co-worker Chad (T. Michael Woolston) conspire to use a tape of the incident to advance their careers (how is never credibly explained). When the tape is leaked, a top-level executive (Bree Pavey) and Ted's egotistical agent (John Perry Sisk) become enmeshed in a network calamity. There is abundant material here for a compelling story, but the squishy premise doesn't hold up. Incoherence and gaps in the narrative are particularly jarring and troublesome in the second act. Annabeth Bondor Stone directs. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 5, $18. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St. No. 105, Los Angeles, 213-680-0392, www.loftensemble.com.
Behind the Lie: A psychological police interrogation of a doctor suspected of killing his wife, written by Nick Rongjun Yu. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 28, $20. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-4252, www.hudsontheatre.com.
Beirut: "Beirut" is the spiteful nickname given to a section of the Lower East Side of New York, where citizens who've been infected with an unnamed disease are tattooed and quarantined. Written by Alan Bowne. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 19, $20. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
Brecht On Brecht: A multimedia revue focusing on the work of Bertolt Brecht, featuring poems, songs and excerpts from some of Brecht's greatest plays, including Fears and Mysteries of the Third Reich and The Threepenny Opera. Conceived by George Tabori from various translations and directed by Alistair Hunter. Starting April 27, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Fri., May 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 18, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 19, 2 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 2, 2 p.m.; Sun., June 9, 2 p.m. Continues through June 9, $25; students and seniors $18. Atwater Playhouse, 3191 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-556-1636, www.atwaterplayhouse.com.
Colorblind: Tackling the racial issues of the United States, this drama follows the life of controversial spiritual leader Mr Clinton Muhammad and his attempted assassination. An original play by Wallace Demarria. Fri., April 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 3, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 4, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 5, 8 p.m., $25. Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-6963, www.anthonymeindl.com/theatres.htm.
Cops and Friends of Cops: A morality play about right vs. wrong, with two cops, a bartender, and a man with a secret. Written and directed by Ron Klier. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 1, $25. VS. Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, www.vstheatre.org.
Do Lord Remember Me: The words and songs of the last generation of Americans who were born into slavery, recorded during President Roosevelt's 1930's Works Progress Administration interviews. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 19, $25. Chromolume Theatre, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-205-1617, www.chromolume-theatre.com.
GO : Dreamgirls: Director Marco Gomez's mostly straightforward but pleasingly intimate staging of Tom Eyer and Henry Krieger's now classic Motown rock musical engagingly captures the ferocious ambition, passion and inevitable disappointments of the story of the rise of a girl band -- a tale whose incidents eerily echo the narrative of The Supremes. Within the comparatively tiny environs of a 99-seat theater, Gomez's production packs far more glitter than you'd actually expect to get into the space: The gorgeous Dreamgirls, resplendent in Michael Mullen's gorgeous 1970s diva gowns, sashay angelically in front of shimmery tinsel curtains. The show boasts many fierce performances, from Welton Thomas Pitchford's nicely creepy, soulless agent Curtis, to Jennifer Colby Talton as the deliciously icy Deena. As Effie, the sultry-voiced, but un-fan-friendly lead singer ousted from her group, Constance Jewell Lopez possesses a haunting voice and vulnerability, particularly during the production's nicely evocative show-stopper, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Although some performers' voices wear a little ragged by the end -- and Rae Toledo's occasionally clunky choreography is sometimes a little awkward during the larger production numbers -- the pleasures of the show itself, under Chris Raymond's assured musical direction, are strong enough to sustain interest. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 5, domatheatre.com. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, 323-957-1152, www.themettheatre.com.
Femmes: A Tragedy: A contemporary lesbian adaptation of Clare Booth Luce's 1936 play The Women. Written and directed by Gina Young. Fri., April 26, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 7 p.m., $20. Lyric-Hyperion Theater & Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-906-8904, www.lyrichyperion.com.
The Good Thief: Written by Conor McPherson. Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 29. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.
Groundlings Prom After-Party: All-new sketch and improv, directed by Damon Jones. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through July 6. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.
Hamlet: A fast-paced contemporary stage adaptation of the Shakespearean classic, directed by Cooper Sivara. Sat., April 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 2 & 7 p.m.; Wed., May 1, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 2, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 3, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 4, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 5, 2 & 7 p.m.; Wed., May 8, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 9, 8 p.m., $20; students and seniors $15. Arena Stage at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian Arena Theater), 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-595-4849.
How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: It would take a cultural philosopher to adequately explain why zombies have so profoundly resonated with audiences at this historical moment. One does not, however, need to be a Gilles Deleuze to understand its baroque potential for satire. Which is to say that anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the genre rules laid down by George Romero will find a lot to like in director Patrick Bristow's amiable, Americanized version of this improv-derived British fringe import by Ben Muir, Jess Napthine, David Ash and Lee Cooper. Bristow is zombiologist Dr. Bobert Dougash. Jayne Entwistle, Mario Vernazza and Chris Sheets are his seminar's panel of conspicuously underqualified experts, who take very seriously the ludicrous prospect of surviving a fictional, species-exterminating epidemic. Bristow expertly leads the crew through some clever wordplay routines worthy of Abbott & Costello, padded out with some genial barbs directed at audience targets of opportunity. (Bill Raden). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 27, combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Huraclown: Acclaimed Mexican clown Aziz Gual visits the U.S. and takes both children and adults on an entertaining, poetic journey. Sun., April 28, 11 a.m. & 2 p.m., $10-$15. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles, 213-745-6516, www.24thstreet.org.
I Am Google: Writer and computer expert Craig Ricci Shaynak stars in this comedy in which he personifies the infamous search engine. Fridays, 10 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through April 28, $15. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Kill Me: An abstract horror play, written by Scott T. Barsotti, which examines the fuzzy lines between belief and reality. After a horrific car accident, a young woman emerges from a coma convinced that beings from another dimension have made her immortal. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 2, $20. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.
Mad Forest: When Eastern European Communism collapsed, only Romania spilled a lot of blood -- from soldiers firing on citizens to the Christmas Day execution of its husband-and-wife dictators, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu. When familiar faces quickly regained power, Romanians wondered if the events of late 1989 should have been labeled a revolution at all. Mad Forest delves directly into that abyss, spinning history into parable via playwright Caryl Churchill's canny postmodern aesthetic. Part 1 sets the stage with tableaux of Romanian life under the secret police. Part 2 becomes an oral history of the violence, and Part 3 dramatizes the unraveling of hope, goodwill -- and, to some extent, sanity -- in the messy aftermath. Mad Forest, with its heavily expository nature, may not have stood the test of time as well as some of Churchill's other works, but its engagement with the impotent rage of those whom history treats as pawns remains on point. Director Marya Mazor stylishly wrangles her large cast and multimedia staging. (Mindy Farabee). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 4. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.
Mary of the Avenue: A light-hearted yet poignant original musical set during winter in New York. The story follows Carrie as she sets out from her Midwestern home to find her mother who, years before, left without notice. Book and lyrics by Neil Scanlan. Directed by Donna Scarantino. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 28, $20. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-4446, www.stellaadler-la.com.
GO : The Miracle Worker: There's always a danger of toppling into sentimentality when retelling a story as uplifting and inspirational as the saga of blind, deaf and dumb Helen Keller and her tough, determined teacher, Annie Sullivan. Playwright William Gibson avoids that pitfall by emphasizing the humor in the situation, the stubborn cantankerousness of Sullivan (Tara Battani) and the animal desperation of the child Helen (Danielle Soibelman). These actors bring visceral intensity to the battle of wits and will that erupts when Sullivan attempts to civilize the wild child, culminating in the ferocious battle over the breakfast table. Silverware flies and crockery smashes as Sullivan fights to reach the isolated girl with nothing more than physical restraint and the sense of touch. Sullivan's struggle is even harder because she also must fend off interference from an over-indulgent mother (Catherine Gray), a willful, blustering father and a cynical, doubting brother (Tony Christopher). There's occasional awkwardness in the production, due to the difficulty of shoehorning a large, multiscene production onto a small arena stage, but director Thom Babbes elicits fine performances from the five principals. Designer Mark Svastics provides the handsome, flexible sets. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., May 18, 2:30 p.m. Continues through May 19, $30; seniors $25; students $20. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles, 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.
Neverwhere: After assisting a distraught and injured woman named Door (Paula Rhodes), milquetoast office worker Richard (Bryan Bellomo) embarks on a journey that draws him into a fantastical, subterranean world beneath London. Neil Gaiman's Wizard of Oz-esque story promises a magical subculture of strange characters, terrifying beasts and exciting twists and turns, but director Scott Leggett's disappointing production delivers a meandering fairy tale and a series of quests that lack tension or genuine threat. The danger set up within each exposition-laden scene is resolved too quickly, before we amble on to the next mini-quest. Hot on Door's trail are assassins Mr. Croup (Ezra Buzzington) and Mr. Vandermar (Bryan Krasner) who, despite their dastardly deeds, are played too comedically to pose genuine menace. Several cast members are guilty of overacting, while most seem to be concentrating more on reproducing British accents than on clarity of expression. Michael James Schneider's cunning, stitched-together set feels underutilized. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 11, $25. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
No Exit: Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist play focuses on three sisters locked in a room together for eternity, the circumstance which bore his famous quote, "Hell is other people." Directed by Don Boughton for the Nether World Theatre Group. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 29, $20; students/seniors $15. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
The North Plan: A dark, dystopian comedy by playwright Jason Wells, in which a ruthless splinter group seizes power in Washington and a bureaucrat for the State Department finds himself trapped in a small Missouri town. Starting April 27, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 1, opening night $35; regular performances $25; pay-what-you-can Thurs. May 2 only. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
On the Spectrum: Young Mac (Dan Shaked) is in the process of applying to law school when his mother (Jeannie Hacket) informs him they are about to lose the family home. What for anyone would qualify as a stressful event becomes for Mac both a deeply unsettling confrontation with the idea of change and an opportunity to prove that all those years of intense therapy for his high-functioning Asperger's Syndrome have given him what it takes to cut it in a neurotypical world. Across town, Iris (a wondrous Virginia Newcomb) never leaves her Queens apartment, spending her days fashioning an elaborate website she's dubbed The Other World. Locked into the more extreme end of the autism scale, she has no interest in meeting society on its own terms. When she hires Mac to design her graphics, the two must negotiate not only the strange territory of human attraction, but also the larger question of whether falling "on the spectrum" is an identity or a disability. Ultimately, the play -- by and large witty and poignant -- falls prey to a reductively feel-good ending. What's flawless is the luminous collaboration between scenic designer John Iacovelli and video designer Jeff Teeter, with agile strokes of light and sound by R. Christopher Stokes and Peter Bayne, respectively. (Mindy Farabee). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 28. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.
Our Class: Inspired by the Jedwabne pogrom a hotly contested, tragic, historic event in Poland in 1941, this drama chronicles the lives of ten classmates as they grow up in tumultuous times. English version by Ryan Craig, directed by Matthew McCray. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 5, $14-$25. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.
Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers: A dark retelling of the J.M. Barrie classic Peter and Wendy that explores the original ideas and inspirations behind the iconic fantasy of Peter Pan. Written by Michael Lluberes. Starting April 27, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 2, $30. Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
Phèdre les oiseaux (Phaedra the birds): An international theater project based on the Greek myth of Phaedra and her stepson Hippolytus, with whom she falls in love. The Los Angeles chorus includes multi-generational community members from the Venice Beach area. Text by Frédéric Boyer, direction by Jean-Baptiste Sastre. Fri., April 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 7 p.m., $30; students $15. Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-1181, www.cemeterytour.com.
Proof: This Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by David Auburn explores madness and familial relationships through troubled heroine Catherine, her estranged relatives, and her deceased father. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fri., May 3, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 9, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 10, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12, $25; students and seniors $10. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.
Red Bastard: Audiences should be ready for anything at Eric Davis' interactive show, in which Red Bastard engages his "students" in a master class of raw conversation, provocations, traps, rewards, and catch 22's. Mon., April 29, 8 p.m.; Mon., May 13, 8 p.m., $20. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
Round Rock: Sam Bass is rarely mentioned in the pantheon of infamous outlaws of the Old West, but he and his gang pulled off the largest train robbery in U.S. history, and they gave law enforcement fits in the late 1800s. Drawing on historical material, writer-director Aaron Kozak dramatizes the life and times of the Sam Bass Gang. Bass (Brett Colbeth) is first seen at a farm hideout with cohorts Seaborn Barnes (Gregory Crafts) and Frank "Blockey" Johnson (Drew Farmer), divvying up the proceeds from a robbery. The action then caroms among various locales in Texas as the gang -- between stints of drinking, gambling and whoring -- elude the law and confront the ugly realities of their lawlessness. Kozak largely succeeds in sketching a convincing picture of these desperadoes. The problem is in the script's structure: There are too many scenes that don't propel the narrative or bolster the dramatic arc, and the second act is terribly overwritten. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 27. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.com.
Shut Up and Dance!: A one-woman show written by and starring comedian/actress/dancer Stella Valente, in which she weaves together her love of dance, upbringing in Queens, and adventures in Argentina. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 30. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., Los Angeles, 323-851-2603, www.workingstage.com.
NYC's Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Inaugural LA Production: A coming-of-age story, written and directed by Daniel Talbot, about a high school senior who moves to Iowa after losing his father, where he develops a close relationship with another boy at school. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m. Continues through May 5, $34; $15 seniors; $10 students, www.rattlestick.org/rattlestick-LA. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles.
Something to Crow About: The Bob Baker Marionettes' musical "Day on the Farm." Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
GO :Tamales de Puerco (Pork Tamales): The rare (or the country's first?) trilingual play -- in English, Spanish and American Sign Language -- draws on playwright Mercedes Floresislas' personal history, which involves another trifecta, this one of woes: As a young woman, Floresislas fought off domestic abuse while scrounging a living as an illegal immigrant and trying to raise a deaf son. Both mother and son are fine now and appear in this surprisingly ebullient production at Casa 0101, Josefina Lopez's (Real Women Have Curves) passion project in the heart of Boyle Heights. Director Edward Padilla recruited a number of deaf actors to sign, with two hearing boys alternating in the role of young Mauricio; English and Spanish supertitles are projected above the stage throughout. Cristal Gonzalez is a gem as the luminous Norma, while Miriam Peniche offers necessary comic relief as her raunchy street-vendor friend peddling roasted elote. The tense ending deliberately spins off into camp (suggesting what might have happened to the Dixie Chicks' Earl if he'd encountered the Demon Barber of Fleet Street), which detracts from the play's valuable themes. But it's a pleasure to watch these characters and the resilient communities they represent quite literally find their voices. (Jenny Lower). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through April 28, $25 opening night; $20 all other nights; $17 seniors; $15 students and Boyle Heights residents. Casa 0101, 2102 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, 323-263-7684, www.casa0101.org.
Terminator Too Judgment Play: Interactive sci-fi spoof, from the folks who brought you Point Break Live!. Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through April 27, brownpapertickets.com/event/306759. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-466-6111, www.thedragonfly.com.
Tis Pity She's A Whore: John Ford's classic tale about incestuous lust, forbidden love, and bloody murder is staged in a 1930s mafia setting under the direction of Miranda Stewart. Starting May 2, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 26, $15. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles, 213-237-9933, www.archwayla.com.
GO : Trainspotting: Director Roger Mathey and Seat of the Pants Productions return with a solid revival of their 2002 production about four lower-class Edinburgh youths prematurely entombed in a hellish world of sex, heroin addiction and violence. The story is based on the 1993 novel by Irvine Welsh (the source material for Danny Boyle's 1996 film) and adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson. Mathey sacrifices nothing in the way of raw, nausea-inducing moments in this outing (shit really does fly, and there is full nudity), and this time he efficiently uses a larger cast, with some actors taking on multiple roles. Justin Zachary returns as narrator-protagonist Mark Renton, who in spite of numerous attempts at rehab can't kick the habit. Also returning are David Agranov as Mark's close friend Tommy, who eventually succumbs to heroin's lethal allure; Matt Tully as Begbie; and Jonathan Roumie as Sick Boy. In spite of the dismal subject matter, Mathey unearths some necessary humor, a lot of it coming from Mark's often ironic, understated commentary. Still, at times the Scottish accents make it near impossible to understand the dialogue (Tully often sounds like he's chewing a mouthful of oatmeal). Jason Rupert's scenic design consisting of a platform that doubles as a home interior, bracketed by two graffiti-pocked walls, is suitably raunchy. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 2, 323-960-7785, plays411.com/trainspotting. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
GO : Walking the Tightrope: Given that so many examples of children's theater are simply appalling -- the equivalent of Muffin the Puppet singing "Sharing Is Caring and Obey your Parents" or some such rubbish -- what a pleasure it is to see a work, aimed at a young audience, that possesses both intellectual heft and genuinely involving emotion. Playwright Mike Kenny's drama Walking the Tightrope is about grief, but the handling of the subject is deft and nuanced, while also being told from a child's point of view. The play takes place in a British seaside town, circa 1950s, as little girl Esme (a beautifully gamine but not obnoxious Paige Lindsay White) arrives for her annual visit to her grandparents. She discovers that her grandmother is nowhere to be found and her sad grandfather (Mark Bramhall) fibs that she has gone to join the circus, a lie that Esme quickly realizes is meant to keep the old man from accepting the truth himself about his wife's passing. Richly evocative, director Debbie Devine's heartfelt production is touching and truthful without descending into mawkish sentimentality. Bramhall's crusty, grieving granddad and White's thoughtfully perky Esme are great together. Tony Duran also delivers a standout turn, as the ghostly presence of the grandmother's spirit. (Paul Birchall). Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 18. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles, 213-745-6516, www.24thstreet.org.
Wolves: For a few minutes Steve Yockey's horror spoof -- pretentiously billed as a psychological drama -- shows literary promise. A narrator (Katherine Skelton) with an air of foreboding tells us about Ben (Nathan Mohebbi), a nebbishy guy from a small town who salves his loneliness with casual lovers, then freaks when they don't want to commit. When his ex, Jack (Matt Magnusson), now a platonic roommate, brings home a handsome "wolf" (Andrew Crabtree), Ben loses it big-time and the blood flows. Hinting at deep truths and dark revelations, the piece then segues into banal dialogue among three guys in a sex triangle. Anyone who's ever been caught up in a dating scene, gay or straight, could improvise this drivel. None of the performers rises above the material, including Skelton, whose storyteller assumes a grating simper. Designer Tim Swiss' lighting displays accomplished talent and Cricket S. Myers' sound is effectual. Michael Matthews directs. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 5. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
American Misfit: A 1950s sock hop is the unlikely setting for playwright Dan Dietz's formally daring but sometimes bewildering meditation on this country's foundational heart of darkness. Based on the grisly, real-life predations of the Harpe brothers (Daniel MK Cohen, AJ Meijer), who terrorized Tennessee's backwoods in the 1790s, this fanciful ode to both Tocqueville and Sun Records employs a rockabilly-fueled original score (by Dietz and Phillip Owen), irreverent impersonations of famous founding fathers (by Larry Cedar and P.J. Ochlan) and a somewhat politicized reading of the Harpes to argue that, for better or worse, civilization -- and America in particular -- finds its richest expression in its most contrary and disruptive discontents. And if Dietz's nomadic reasoning holds more water as political theory than as engaging stage narrative, the combination of Michael Michetti's fertile direction, Lee Martino's thrilling swing choreography, Ann Closs-Farley's vividly imagined costumes and Omar D. Brancato's four-piece band (fronted by a smoldering Banks Boutté) goes a long way toward shoring up the leaks. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., May 8, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12, $34. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626-683-6883, www.bostoncourt.com.
Billy & Ray: Widely considered to be one of the most influential film noirs, 1944's Double Indemnity is not only a masterpiece of the genre but also an artful example of how filmmakers were inspired by the Hays Code, the censorship restrictions governing Hollywood from 1930 to 1968. Drawing on the contentious partnership that produced the film -- director/co-writer Billy Wilder famously clashed with his first-time screenwriter, Raymond Chandler, who went on to feud equally furiously with Alfred Hitchcock -- playwright Mike Bencivenga's light comedy is a love letter not only to the movie itself but to classic Hollywood in general and creative ingenuity in particular. Handsomely staged and snappily paced by director Garry Marshall, the production picks up in the second act when Wilder (Kevin Blake), presented as a lovable scamp, and Chandler (Shaun O'Hagan), unfortunately drawn as pretty much a milquetoast, get some of their best opportunities to banter. (Mindy Farabee). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through May 5, Opening night $52-$57; Weds and Thurs $34.50-$37; Fri, Sat, Sun $39.50-$42; students $27. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside, Burbank, 818-955-8101, www.falcontheatre.com.
Bullshot Crummond: A parody of a 1930s British sleuth movie, the dashing Captain Hugh "Bullshot" Crummond must save the world from his wartime adversary, while also winning the heart of a jolly nice young lady. Written by Ron House, Diz White, Alan Shearman, John Neville Andrews, and Derek Cunningham. Presented by Advent Theater. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1:30 p.m. Continues through May 19, $20; students and seniors $15. First Christian Church, 4390 Colfax Ave., Studio City, 818-763-8218, www.fccnh.org.
Company: Stephen Sondheim composed the lyrics and score to his innovative "concept musical" in 1970, with book by George Furth. For a comedy musical about love, it proves resolutely unromantic and honest. And, surprisingly, its acerbic wit and laserlike scrutiny of marriage, dating and relationships does not feel at all dated. Director Albert Marr's incorporation of cellphones and Facebook effortlessly adds a contemporary feel. The loose story centers on Robert (a charismatic Ben Rovner), a handsome, single, mid-30s New Yorker surrounded by well-meaning but smug married friends. Their cheerful efforts to push him toward joining their club are undermined by their conjugal lives, which are fundamentally flawed or dysfunctional. The ensemble's vocal skills are good but not stellar, though Julie Black sings brilliantly as funky girlfriend Marta. Also impressive is musical director William A. Reilly's furious piano and synth live accompaniment. Despite some appealing performances, this company's average Company barely matches Sondheim's marvelous material. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 28, crowncitytheatre.com. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-605-5685, www.crowncitytheatre.com.
Dirty Little Demon: Joseph Le Compte's sex thriller. Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through May 3. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Fragments of Oscar Wilde: Vanessa Cate's adaptations of La Sainte Courtisane, A Florentine Tragedy, The Nightingale and the Rose, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Salome. Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through May 18. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Golden Girls Live: A Drag Parody: Pay tribute to your favorite sitcom senior citizens with this hilarious drag show. Priority seating includes a slice of cheesecake. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 29, $22.50-$34. Oil Can Harry's, 11502 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-760-9749, www.oilcanharrysla.com.
Grimm Nights Vol.1: Hollywood: Grimm's classic fairy tales set against the mean streets of modern-day Hollywood. Written by Vanessa Cate, Matt DeNoto, Samantha Levenshus, Sebastian Muñoz, and Adam Neubauer. Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 5, $15. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
The Importance of Being Earnest: While the latest offering from the Banshees is surely earnest, director Sean Branney and the ensemble don't quite capture the delicate rhythms of Oscar Wilde's language nor the precise comic timing necessary to properly realize Earnest. The conflict between Jack (Cameron J. Oro) and Algernon (Kevin Stidham) initially misses the mark, as Oro is too congenial to delineate the contrast between the bachelors, leading Stidham to overdo the cheek a bit. Their dynamic soon recovers but it never finds Jack's stringent propriety, which provides the necessary foil to Algernon's antics. Andrew Leman's Lady Bracknell, while quite different from Dame Edith Evans' classic portrayal, comes into her own and continues the tradition of male casting for the role. Gwendolen (Sarah van der Pol) and Cecily (Erin Barnes) are pleasant and perky, but their claws aren't razor sharp in their classic tête-à-tête over tea, though Barnes' energy gives Cecily a youthful exuberance. There is brilliance in Branney's "set-change ballet" between Acts II and III, showcasing Arthur MacBride's artfully crafted set, but it's not enough to elevate a merely competent take on the classic. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 5. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, 818-846-5323, www.theatrebanshee.org.
The Innocence of Father Brown: Drawing from G.K. Chesterton's 51 short stories about a Catholic priest who solves murder mysteries in early 20th-century London, Patrick Rieger has created a two-hour evening of theater that feels like two related one-act plays. Simply staged by co-directors Allison Darby Gorjian and Betsy Roth, the lightly comedic crime drama unfolds at an unhurried pace; this is old-fashioned storytelling from a gentler, more leisurely era. Unfortunately the presentation is frequently staid, with the action drifting to a halt as Father Brown engages in philosophical and theological debates, only occasionally enlivened by his droll wit and high-flown language. Several characters clearly echo those in Conan-Doyle's tales of Sherlock Holmes, in particular the arch-criminal Flambeau (Brandon Parrish), grumpy, exasperated detective Valentin (Adam Daniel Eliott) and smooth and cryptic sleuth Father Brown (Blake Walker), although unlike the more famous fictional detective, the clergyman's process tends to be introspective and intuitive rather than deductive. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 29, $25; students/seniors $20. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, 626-441-5977, www.fremontcentretheatre.com.
The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later: An examination of Laramie, Wyoming and its changes and adaptations since the murder of Matthew Shepard. Written by Moises Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Andy Paris, and Stephen Belber. Also playing is the companion piece, The Laramie Project. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 27, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 19, $27-$35. The Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, 714-777-3033, www.chancetheater.com.
Love, Sex, Violence, Etc.: A collection of five short works from playwright Helena Weltman, which promises to take its audience on a tour of human emotions emerging from the deepest tragedy to the funniest comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 5, $20; students and seniors $18. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
Low Tech: In this comedy, a spokesmodel disconnects from her technology-driven corporate sponsors, convincing her bosses that she is crazy. Written by Jeff Folschinsky. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 19, $18. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
Nuttin' but Hutton: Betty Hutton was known in her heyday as the Blonde Bombshell. After a brief Broadway career, and a stint as a band singer, she made her name in Hollywood in screwball comedies like The Miracle at Morgan's Creek and became famous for her manic, zany, over-the-top performances of comic novelty songs such as "I'm Just a Square in the Social Circle," "Murder, He Says" and "His Rocking Horse Ran Away." She went on to triumph in the film version of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun and Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth, only to abandon her Hollywood career and wind up as a dishwasher in a Catholic convent. Writer-performer Diane Vincent clearly idolizes Hutton and set out to celebrate her. But instead of relying on Hutton's own potent story, Vincent has chosen to tell the hackneyed tale of a singer trying to mount a show about Hutton, featuring a large array of Hutton's signature numbers, with snippets of information of her life and career shoehorned in. Vincent is an able performer, and her show is a labor of love, but Hutton would have been better served by a more straightforward treatment of her life and talent. (Neal Weaver). Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through April 28, 800-595-4849, nuttinbuthutton.com. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, www.thenohoartscenter.com.
The Owl and the Pussycat: In this comedy, two polar opposites, would-be writer Felix and would-be actress Doris bring mischief and spark into each others lives. Written by Bill Manhoff. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 12, $20. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-205-1680.
Sculptress of Angel X: Zombie Joe's "epic drama about a passionate young woman's erotic journey to redemption through her art." Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through May 10. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Smoke and Mirrors: If you've forgotten the childlike joy and sublime wonderment of seeing magic performed, Albie Selznick's theatrical show is an enchanting reminder. The accomplished actor-magician puts on a bewildering tour de force that has more "how did he do that" flashes than can be counted. The show also has a personal element, as Selznick recounts his long path to becoming a master magician, starting when he lost his father at the age of 9 and used magic to escape reality, and then as a means of challenging and overcoming his fears. He knows how to work the crowd, and uses members of the audience in a number of his routines. Toward show's end, he swallows some razors (kids, don't try this), then regurgitates them on a long string, and wows with a demonstration of fire eating and juggling some wicked-looking knives. Other amazing moments are the eerie conjuring of doves out of nowhere and a mind-blowing exhibition of midair suspension. Like all good magicians, Selznick has highly capable assistants -- Brandy, Kyle, Tina and Daniel -- who dazzle with their own magic in a stylish preshow. Paul Millet directs. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 26, 800-595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
Someone Who'll Watch Over Me: A story inspired by true events, about the horrors of captivity and unbreakable friendships. Three men are held captive in a 1980's Lebanese prison and are forced to cope with daily challenges, fear and uncertainty. Written by Frank McGuinness. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 2, $22. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-700-4878, www.thegrouprep.com.
True West: This 1980 drama puts a spin on sibling rivalry when two adult brothers experience the heavy burden of envy. Written by Sam Shepard. Directed by Randall Gray. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 25, $30; seniors and military personnel $27. Stages of Gray, 299 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena, www.stagesofgray.com.
Urban Death: Zombie Joe's Underground's horror stories. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through June 8. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: A hit musical comedy revival about the intelligence of young people. Book by Rachel Sheinkin. Music and lyrics by William Finn. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 12, $25; students and seniors $23. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades, 310-454-1970, www.theatrepalisades.org.
Annapurna: Husband and wife actors Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman star in this drama by Sharr White, about two old lovers who reunite for the first time in twenty years. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., May 8, 8 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 22, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 29, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 9, $25-$30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
Assisted Living: A funny, touching look at interpersonal relationships, written and performed by husband and wife team Paul Dooley and Winnie Holzman. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 13, $45 opening night; $25 Fridays; $30 Saturdays and Sundays. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
Blood Knot: Two brothers in South Africa, one black and one who passes for white, try to move out of the ramshackle village in which they reside. Written by Athol Fugard. Directed by Oscar and Golden Globe Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May 19, $25. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast, Malibu, 310-589-1998, www.malibustagecompany.org.
Embraceable Me: A story of an abiding love that begins as a mutual appreciation between two high school misfits with a common interest. Written by Victor L. Cahn and directed by Ryanne Laratonda. Wed., May 1, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 2, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 5, 2 p.m.; Fri., May 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 15, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 16, 8 p.m. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.
Hammer Down Reprise: Written and directed by Adam Macy. Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through April 27. The Improv Space, 954 Gayley Ave., Westwood, www.theimprovspace.com.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Heart of Darkness: In his haunting, solo adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, playwright-actor Brian T. Finney navigates his craft directly through the work's core themes of madness, imperialistic exploitation and, well, the horror. Finney reimagines the story as monologue, artfully orchestrated by director Keythe Farley's psychologically nuanced and ferociously energetic staging. Avoiding the pitfalls of intrusive, radio drama-like narration, Finney and Farley offer a far more immersive experience -- one that is fraught with eerie melancholy. Finney, caparisoned in traditional 19th-century explorer's garb, at first plays the hero as a traditionally plummy, genially affable British sailor. But as his character's voyage up the dark river of the Congo proceeds, and he finds himself desperately interacting with the dangerously insane station chief Kurtz, the performer takes on the lunacy of his characters, creating a harrowing atmosphere with a stylized quality that almost echoes Kabuki theater. Set, sound effects and multimedia visuals are almost characters in their own right: Sibyl Wickersheimer's sole set backdrop, a series of three sails that fold in and out of each other, turning into walls at one moment and screens for contextual slides in others, is brilliantly effective. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 18, $35; students/seniors $30. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-4264, www.theactorsgang.com.
I'm Not Rappaport: A new stage production of the Tony award-winning comedy by Herb Gardner, in which seniors Midge, an African American, and Nat, a Jewish man, meet in Central Park and develop a friendship. Directed by Howard Teichman. Starting April 27, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 23, $35. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-204-4440, www.picoplayhouse.com.
One White Crow: An investigative journalist is assigned to profile a renowned television personality and psychic medium intent on proving her powers. Written by Dale Griffiths and directed by Deborah LaVine. Starting April 27, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through June 23, $35. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
PICK OF THE WEEK: The Rainmaker: A con-man/drifter walks into a small town, usually in the Midwest, and seduces a vulnerable local female. He not only seduces her, he awakens her to her true self and potential, which the opinions of others -- her family and society -- have been suffocating. Oh, brother. Get the broom and sweep off the cobwebs. In lesser hands than director Jack Heller's, watching The Rainmaker would be like trudging through a slightly dank, primeval marsh without rubber boots -- the kind of experience where you might say, "Well, isn't this historic and curious. Where can I dry my socks?" The production is saved in part by its linchpin, Tanna Frederick's droll, rat-smart Lizzie. With subtlety and composure that often belies the text, she knows who she is and what she wants. Though the play is over-written, Frederick's performance lies so entrenched beneath the lines, it's as though she absorbs the play's excesses so that they don't even show. Her terrific performance is not enough to turn the play into a classic, but it does provide enough of an emotional pull to reveal the reasons why it keeps getting staged. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May 19. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
Rank: In Irish playwright Robert Massey's dramedy, the collection of low-life characters on offer proves that one needn't have an American passport to be a scoundrel and a reprobate -- the same sort of crooked sleazes may be found even on the Emerald Isle. Carl (Kevin Kearns), a sad-sack Dublin taxi driver with a gambling addiction, is in debt to local thug boss Jackie (Ron Bottitta), who has given Carl half a day to come up with the money he owes. When Carl's father-in-law, George (David Schaal), who happens to be Jackie's former underworld ally, teams with Carl to perform a heist, double crosses ensue -- albeit of the most predictable type. Like many plays from Ireland, Massey's piece possesses a distinctive verbal style -- the dialogue is meandering, sometimes lyrical, and full of wit. However, director Wilson Milam's drab production suffers from sluggish pacing, which exacerbates awareness of the narrative's often glaring logical flaws. Performances possess an intriguing intensity suggesting danger, but it's left to Bottitta's leering, blustering, Jack Nicholson-like mob boss to carry the show with his multidimensional personality. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., May 2, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 8, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife: Del Shores' award-winning dramatic comedy about the life of Willadean, an abused "trailer trash" housewife. Contains adult material. Discretion is advised. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 28, $10-$13. Santa Monica College, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-434-4000, www.smc.edu.
Years To The Day: A dark comedy written by Allen Barton about two 40-something men who have been friends for decades, and who finally get together for coffee after only staying in touch via social media. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 12, $25-$35. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-855-1556, www.bhplayhouse.com.
Yesterday's: Twelve actors and musicians star in this comedy about Candy, the owner of a failing Hollywood jazz club, who tries to keep her business afloat. Live music accompanies this original piece, created and performed by Theatre by the Blind. Written by Colin Simson and Lindsay Nyman. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 5, $20; pay-what-you-can on April 21 only. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, 310-656-8070, www.promenadeplayhouse.com.
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